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The  Story  of  Civilization 





i.  Our  Oriental  Heritage 

Being  a  history  of  civilization  in  Egypt  and  the  Near  East 
to  the  death  of  Alexander,  and  in  India,  China  and  ] 
front  the  beginning  to  our  own  day;  'with  an  int 
on  the  nature  and  foundations  of  civilizatj 

ift  Diirant 


NEW   YORK    :     1942 



I  HAVE  tried  in  this  book  to  accomplish  the  first  part  of  a  pleasant 
assignment  which  I  rashly  laid  upon  myself  some  twenty  years  ago:  to 
write  a  history  of  civilization.  I  wish  to  tell  as  much  as  I  can,  in  as  little 
space  as  I  can,  of  the  contributions  that  genius  and  labor  have  made  to  the 
cultural  heritage  of  mankind— to  chronicle  and  contemplate,  in  their  causes, 
character  and  effects,  the  advances  of  invention,  the  varieties  of  economic 
organization,  the  experiments  in  government,  the  aspirations  of  religion, 
the  mutations  of  morals  and  manners,  the  masterpieces  of  literature,  the  de- 
velopment of  science,  the  wisdom  of  philosophy,  and  the  achievements  of 
art.  I  do  not  need  to  be  told  how  absurd  this  enterprise  is,  nor  how  im- 
modest is  its  very  conception;  for  many  years  of  effort  have  brought  it  to 
but  a  fifth  of  its  completion,  and  have  made  it  clear  that  no  one  mind,  and 
no  single  lifetime,  can  adequately  compass  this  task.  Nevertheless  I  have 
dreamed  that  despite  the  many  errors  inevitable  in  this  undertaking,  it  may 
be  of  some  use  to  those  upon  whom  the  passion  for  philosophy  has  laid  the 
compulsion  to  try  to  see  things  whole,  to  pursue  perspective,  unity  and 
understanding  through  history  in  time,  as  well  as  to  seek  them  through 
science  in  space. 

I  have  long  felt  that  our  usual  method  of  writing  history  in  separate 
longitudinal  sections— economic  history,  political  history,  religious  history, 
the  history  of  philosophy,  the  history  of  literature,  the  history  of  science, 
the  history  of  music,  the  history  of  art— does  injustice  to  the  unity  of 
human  life;  that  history  should  be  written  collaterally  as  well  as  lineally, 
synthetically  as  well  as  analytically;  and  that  the  ideal  historiography 
would  seek  to  portray  in  each  period  the  total  complex  of  a  nation's  culture, 
institutions,  adventures  and  ways.  But  the  accumulation  of  knowledge  has 
divided  history,  like  science,  into  a  thousand  isolated  specialties;  and  pru- 
dent scholars  have  refrained  from  attempting  any  view  of  the  whole— 
whether  of  the  material  universe,  or  of  the  living  past  of  our  race.  For  the 
probability  of  error  increases  with  the  scope  of  the  undertaking,  and  any 
man  who  sells  his  soul  to  synthesis  will  be  a  tragic  target  for  a  myriad 
merry  darts  of  specialist  critique.  "Consider,"  said  Ptah-hotep  five  thousand 
years  ago,  "how  thou  mayest  be  opposed  by  an  expert  in  council.  It  is 



foolish  to  speak  on  every  kind  of  work."*  A  history  of  civilization  shares 
the  presumptuousness  of  every  philosophical  enterprise:  it  offers  the  ridicu- 
lous spectacle  of  a  fragment  expounding  the  whole.  Like  philosophy,  such 
a  venture  has  no  rational  excuse,  and  is  at  best  but  a  brave  stupidity;  but  let 
us  hope  that,  like  philosophy,  it  will  always  lure  some  rash  spirits  into  its 
fatal  depths. 

The  plan  of  the  series  is  to  narrate  the  history  of  civilization  in  five  inde- 
pendent parts: 

L  Our  Oriental  Heritage:  a  history  of  civilization  in  Egypt  and  the 
Near  East  to  the  death  of  Alexander,  and  in  India,  China  and  Japan 
to  the  present  day;  with  an  introduction  on  the  nature  and  elements 
of  civilization. 

II.  Our  Classical  Heritage:  a  history  of  civilization  in  Greece  and 
Rome,  and  of  civilization  in  the  Near  East  under  Greek  and  Roman 

III.  Our  Medieval  Heritage:  Catholic  and  feudal  Europe,  Byzantine 
civilization,  Mohammedan  and  Judaic  culture  in  Asia,  Africa  and 
Spain,  and  the  Italian  Renaissance. 

IV.  Our  European  Heritage:  the  cultural  history  of  the  European  states 
from  the  Protestant  Reformation  to  the  French  Revolution. 

V.  Our  Modern  Heritage:  the  history  of  European  invention  and  states- 
manship, science  and  philosophy,  religion  and  morals,  literature  and 
art  from  the  accession  of  Napoleon  to  our  own  times. 

Our  story  begins  with  the  Orient,  not  merely  because  Asia  was  the  scene 
of  the  oldest  civilizations  known  to  us,  but  because  those  civilizations 
formed  the  background  and  basis  of  that  Greek  and  Roman  culture  which 
Sir  Henry  Maine  mistakenly  supposed  to  be  the  whole  source  of  the  mod- 
ern mind.  We  shall  be  surprised  to  learn  how  much  of  our  most  indis- 
pensable inventions,  our  economic  and  political  organization,  our  science 
and  our  literature,  our  philosophy  and  our  religion,  goes  back  to  Egypt 
and  the  Orient,  t  At  this  historic  moment— when  the  ascendancy  of  Europe 
is  so  rapidly  coming  to  an  end,  when  Asia  is  swelling  with  resurrected  life, 
and  the  theme  of  the  twentieth  century  seems  destined  to  be  an  all-embrac- 

*  Cf.  p.  193  below. 

tThe  contributions  of  the  Orient  to  our  cultural  heritage  are  summed  up  in  the  con- 
cluding pages  of  this  volume. 



ing  conflict  between  the  East  and  the  West— the  provincialism  of  our  tra- 
ditional histories,  which  began  with  Greece  and  summed  up  Asia  in  a  line, 
has  become  no  merely  academic  error,  but  a  possibly  fatal  failure  of  per- 
spective and  intelligence.  The  future  faces  into  the  Pacific,  and  under- 
standing must  follow  it  there. 

But  how  shall  an  Occidental  mind  ever  understand  the  Orient?  Eight 
years  of  study  and  travel  have  only  made  this,  too,  more  evident— that  not 
even  a  lifetime  of  devoted  scholarship  would  suffice  to  initiate  a  Western 
student  into  the  subtle  character  and  secret  lore  of  the  East.  Every  chap- 
ter, every  paragraph  in  this  book  will  offend  or  amuse  some  patriotic  or 
esoteric  soul:  the  orthodox  Jew  will  need  all  his  ancient  patience  to  forgive 
the  pages  on  Yahveh;  the  metaphysical  Hindu  will  mourn  this  superficial 
scratching  of  Indian  philosophy;  and  the  Chinese  or  Japanese  sage  will 
smile  indulgently  at  these  brief  and  inadequate  selections  from  the  wealth 
of  Far  Eastern  literature  and  thought.  Some  of  the  errors  in  the  chapter  on 
Judea  have  been  corrected  by  Professor  Harry  Wolf  son  of  Harvard;  Dr. 
Ananda  Coomaraswamy  of  the  Boston  Institute  of  Fine  Arts  has  given  the 
section  on  India  a  most  painstaking  revision,  but  must  not  be  held  responsi- 
ble for  the  conclusions  I  have  reached  or  the  errors  that  remain;  Professor 
H.  H.  Gowen,  the  learned  Orientalist  of  the  University  of  Washington, 
and  Upton  Close,  whose  knowledge  of  the  Orient  seems  inexhaustible, 
have  checked  the  more  flagrant  mistakes  in  the  chapters  on  China  and 
Japan;  and  Mr.  George  Sokolsky  has  given  to  the  pages  on  contemporary 
affairs  in  the  Far  East  the  benefit  of  his  first-hand  information.  Should  the 
public  be  indulgent  enough  to  call  for  a  second  edition  of  this  book,  the 
opportunity  will  be  taken  to  incorporate  whatever  further  corrections  may 
be  suggested  by  critics,  specialists  and  readers.  Meanwhile  a  weary  author 
may  sympathize  with  Tai  T'ung,  who  in  the  thirteenth  century  issued  his 
History  of  Chinese  Writing  with  these  words:  "Were  I  to  await  perfec- 
tion, my  book  would  never  be  finished."* 

Since  these  ear-minded  times  are  not  propitious  for  the  popularity  of  ex- 
pensive books  on  remote  subjects  of  interest  only  to  citizens  of  the  world, 
it  may  be  that  the  continuation  of  this  series  will  be  delayed  by  the  prosaic 
necessities  of  economic  life.  But  if  the  reception  of  this  adventure  in  syn- 
thesis makes  possible  an  uninterrupted  devotion  to  the  undertaking,  Part 
Two  should  be  ready  by  the  fall  of  1940,  and  its  successors  should  appear, 

*  Carter,  T.  F.,  The  Invention  of  Printing  in  China,  and  Its  Spread  Westward;  New  York, 
1925,  p.  xviii, 



by  the  grace  of  health,  at  five-year  intervals  thereafter.  Nothing  would 
make  me  happier  than  to  be  freed,  for  this  work,  from  every  other  literary 
enterprise.  I  shall  proceed  as  rapidly  as  time  and  circumstance  will  permit, 
hoping  that  a  few  of  my  contemporaries  will  care  to  grow  old  with  me 
while  learning,  and  that  these  volumes  may  help  some  of  our  children  to 
understand  and  enjoy  the  infinite  riches  of  their  inheritance. 

Great  Neck,  N.  Y.,  March,  1935 


To  bring  the  volume  into  smaller  compass  certain  technical  passages,  which 
may  prove  difficult  for  the  general  reader,  have  been  printed  (like  this  para- 
graph) in  reduced  type.  Despite  much  compression  the  book  is  still  too  long, 
and  the  font  of  reduced  type  has  not  sufficed  to  indicate  all  the  dull  passages. 
I  trust  that  the  reader  will  not  attempt  more  than  a  chapter  at  a  time. 

Indented  passages  in  reduced  type  are  quotations.  The  raised  numbers  refer 
to  the  Notes  at  the  end  of  the  volume;  to  facilitate  reference  to  these  Notes  the 
number  of  the  chapter  is  given  at  the  head  of  each  page.  An  occasional  hiatus 
in  the  numbering  of  the  Notes  was  caused  by  abbreviating  the  printed  text. 
The  books  referred  to  in  the  Notes  are  more  fully  described  in  the  Bibliog- 
raphy, whose  starred  titles  may  serve  as  a  guide  to  further  reading.  The  Gloss- 
ary defines  all  foreign  words  used  in  the  text.  The  Index  pronounces  foreign 
names,  and  gives  biographical  dates. 

It  should  be  added  that  this  book  has  no  relation  to,  and  makes  no  use  of, 
a  biographical  Story  of  Civilization  prepared  for  newspaper  publication  in 


I  am  grateful  to  the  following  authors  and  publishers  for  permission  to  quote  from 
their  books: 

Leonard,  W.  E.,  Gilgamesh;  the  Viking  Press. 

Giles,  H.  A.,  A  History  of  Chinese  Literature;  D.  Applcton-Century  Co. 
Underwood,  Edna  Worthley,  Tu  Fu;  the  Mosher  Press. 
Waley,  Arthur,  170  Chinese  Poeins;  Alfred  A.  Knopf. 
Breasted,  Jas.   H.,   The  Development   of  Religion  and   Thought  in   Ancient  Egypt; 


Obata,  Shigeyoshi,  Works  of  Li  Po;  E.  P.  Dutton. 
Tietjens,  Eunice,  Poetry  of  the  Orient;  Alfred  A.  Knopf. 
Van  Doren,  Mark,  Anthology  of  World  Poetry;  the  Literary  Guild. 
"Upton  Close,"  unpublished  translations  of  Chinese  poems. 






Definition  —  Geological  conditions  —  Geographical  —  Economic  —  Racial  —  Psycho- 
logical —  Causes  of  the  decay  of  civilizations 



Primitive  improvidence— Beginnings  of  provision— Hunting  and  fishing— Herding— 
The  domestication  of  animals— Agriculture— Food— Cooking— Cannibalism 


Fire— Primitive  Tools— Weaving  and  pottery— Building  and  transport— Trade  and 


Primitive  communism— Causes  of  its  disappearance— Origins  of  private  property- 
Slavery—  Classes 



The  unsocial  instinct— Primitive  anarchism— The  clan  and  the  tribe— The  king— War 

II.  THE  STATE,  23 

As  the  organization  of  force— The  village  community— The  psychological  aides  of 
the  state 

III.  LAW,  25 

Law-lessness— Law  and  custom— Revenge— Fines— Courts— Ordeal— The  duel— Punish- 
ment—Primitive  freedom 

IV.  THE  FAMILY,  29 

Its  function  in  civilization— The  clan  vs.  the  family— Growth  of  parental  care— Un- 
importance of  the  father— Separation  of  the  sexes— Mother-right— Status  of  woman 
—Her  occupations— Her  economic  achievements— The  patriarchate— The  subjection 
of  woman 




I.  MARRIAGE,  36 

The  meaning  of  marriage— Its  biological  origins— Sexual  communism— Trial  marriage 
—Group  marriage— Individual  marriage— Polygamy— Its  eugenic  value— Exogamy- 
Marriage  by  service— By  capture— By  purchase— Primitive  love— The  economic  func- 
tion of  marriage 


Premarital  relations  —  Prostitution  —  Chastity  —  Virginity  —  The  double  standard  — 
Modesty  —  The  relativity  of  morals  —  The  biological  role  of  modesty  —  Adultery  - 
Divorce— Abortion— Infanticide— Childhood— The  individual 


The  nature  of  virtue  and  vice— Greed-Dishonesty— Violence— Homicide— Suicide— 
The  socialization  of  the  individual— Altruism— Hospitality— Manners— Tribal  limits  of 
morality— Primitive  vs.  modern  morals— Religion  and  morals 

Primitive  atheists 


Fear— Wonder— Dreams— The  soul— Animism 


The  sun  — The  stars  — The  earth  —  Sex  —  Animals  —  Totemism  —  The  transition  to 
human  gods— Ghost-worship— Ancestor-worship 


Magic  —  Vegetation  rites  —  Festivals  of  license  —  Myths  of  the  resurrected  god  — 
Magic  and  superstition— Magic  and  science— Priests 


Religion  and  government— Tabu— Sexual  tabus— The  lag  of  religion— Secularization 


I.  LETTERS,  72 

Language— Its  animal  background— Its  human  origins— Its  development— Its  results- 
Education— Initiation— Writing— Poetry 

II.  SCIENCE,  78 

Origins— Mathematics— Astronomy— Medicine— Surgery 

III.  ART,  82 

The  meaning  of  beauty-Of  art-The  primitive  sense  of  beauty-The  painting  of  the 
body  —  Cosmetics  —  Tattooing  —  Scarification  —  Clothing  —  Ornaments  —  Pottery  — 
Painting  —  Sculpture  —  Architecture'—  The  dance  —  Music  —  Summary  of  the 
primitive  preparation  for  civilization 

Chronological  Chart:  Types  and  Cultures  of  Prehistoric  Man 90 





The  purpose  of  prehistory— The  romances  of  archeology 


The  geological  background— Paleolithic  types 


Tools-Fire— Painting— Sculpture 


The  Kitchen-Middens-The  Lake-Dwellers-The  coming  of  agriculture-The  taming 
of  animals— Technology— Neolithic  weaving— pottery— building— transport— religion- 
science— Summary  of  the  prehistoric  preparation  for  civilization 



Copper— Bronze— Iron 


Its  possible  ceramic  origins  —  The  "Mediterranean  Signary"  —  Hieroglyphics  — 




Central  Asia— Anau— Lines  of  Dispersion 



Chronological  Table  of  Near  Eastern  History 113 

Chapter  VII:   SUMERIA 116 

Orientation— Contributions  of  the  Near  East  to  Western  civilization 
1.  ELAM,   117 

The  culture  of  Susa— The  potter's  wheel— The  wagon-wheel 



The  exhuming  of  Sumeria— Geography— Race— Appearance— The  Sumerian  Flood 
—The  kings— An  ancient  reformer— Sargon  of  Akkad— The  Golden  Age  of  Ur 


The  soil-Industry— Trade— Classes— Science 


The  kings- Ways  of  war— The  feudal  barons— Law 


The  Sumerian  Pantheon— The  food  of  the  gods— Mythology— Education— A  Sume- 
rian prayer— Temple  prostitutes— The  rights  of  woman-Sumerian  cosmetics 




Writing  —  Literature  —  Temples  and  palaces  —  Statuary  —  Ceramics  -  Jewelry- 
Summary  of  Sumerian  civilization 


Sumerian  influence  in  Mesopotamia  —  Ancient  Arabia  —  Mesopotamia!!  influence  in 

Chapter  VIII:   EGYPT 137 

I.  THE  GIFT  OF  THE  NILE,  137 


Alexandria-The  Nile-The  Pyramids-The  Sphinx 


Memphis— The  masterpiece  of  Queen  Hatshepsut— The  "Colossi  of  Memnon"— 
Luxor  and  Karnak— The  grandeur  of  Egyptian  civilization 



Champollion  and  the  Rosetta  Stone 


Paleolithic— Neolithic— The  Badarians— Predynastic— Race 


The  "nomes"-The  first  historic  individual-"Cheops"-"Chephren"-The  purpose 
of  the  Pyramids— Art  of  the  tombs— Mummification 


The  Feudal  Age— The  Twelfth  Dynasty— The  Hyksos  Domination 


The  great  queen— Thutmose  III— The  zenith  of  Egypt 




Miners  —  Manufactures  —  Workers  —  Engineers  —  Transport  —  Postal  service  — 
Commerce  and  finance  —  Scribes 


The  bureaucrats— Law— The  vizier— The  pharaoh 


Royal  incest— The  harem— Marriage— The  position  of  woman— The  matriarchate  in 
Egypt— Sexual  morality 


Character— Games— Appearance— Cosmetics— Costume— Jewelry 


Education— Schools  of  government— Paper  and  ink— Stages  in  the  development  of 
writing— Forms  of  Egyptian  writing 


Texts  and  libraries— The  Egyptian  Sinbad— The  Story  of  Sinuhe— Fiction— An 
amorous  fragment— Love  poems— History— A  literary  revolution 




Origins  of  Egyptian  science— Mathematics— Astronomy  and  the  calendar— Anatomy 
and  physiology— Medicine,  surgery  and  hygiene 

p.  ART 

Architecture— Old  Kingdom,  Middle  Kingdom,  Empire  and  Sa'ite  sculpture— Bas- 
relief— Painting— Minor  arts— Music— The  artists 


The  Instructions  of  Ptah-hotep—The  Admonitions  of  Ipuwer— The  Dialogue  of  a 
Misanthrope— The  Egyptian  Ecclesiastes 


Sky  gods— The  sun  god— Plant  gods— Animal  gods— Sex  gods— Human  gods— Osiris 
— Isis  and  Horus— Minor  deities— The  priests— Immortality— The  Book  of  the  Dead— 
The  "Negative  Confession"— Magic— Corruption 


The  character  of  Ikhnaton— The  new  religion— A  hymn  to  the  sun— Monotheism— The 
new  dogma— The  new  art— Reaction— Nofretete— Break-up  of  the  Empire— Death  of 

V.  DECLINE  AND  FALL,  2  1 3 

Tutenkhamon— The  labors  of  Rameses  H— The  wealth  of  the  clergy— The  poverty  of 
the  people— The  conquest  of  Egypt— Summary  of  Egyptian  contributions  to  civili- 

Chapter  IX:   BABYLONIA 218 


Babylonian  contributions  to  modern  civilisation— The  Land  between  the  Rivers- 
Hammurabi— His  capital— The  Kassite  Domination— The  Amarna  letters— The  As- 
syrian Conquest— Nebuchadrezzar— Babylon  in  the  days  of  its  glory 

II.  THE  TOILERS,  226 

Hunting  —  Tillage  —  Food  —  Industry  —  Transport  —  The  perils  of  commerce  — 
Money-lenders— Slaves 

III.  THE  LAW,  230 

The  Code  of  Hammurabi— The  powers  of  the  king— Trial  by  ordeal— Lex  Talioms— 
Forms  of  punishment— Codes  of  wages  and  prices— State  restoration  of  stolen  goods 


Religion  and  the  state— The  functions  and  powers  of  the  clergy— The  lesser  gods— 
Marduk— Ishtar— The  Babylonian  stories  of  the  Creation  and  the  Flood— The  love  of 
Ishtar  and  Tammuz— The  descent  of  Ishtar  into  Hell— The  death  and  resurrection  of 
Tammuz— Ritual  and  prayer— Penitential  psalms— Sin— Magic— Superstition 


Religion  divorced  from  morals— Sacred  prostitution— Free  love— Marriage— Adultery 
—Divorce— The  position  of  woman— The  relaxation  of  morals 


Cuneiform— Its  decipherment— Language— Literature— The  epic  of  Gilgamcsh 



VII.  ARTISTS,  254 

The  lesser  arts— Music— Painting— Sculpture— Bas-relief— Architecture 

Mathematics— Astronomy— The  calendar—Geography—Medicine 

Religion  and  Philosophy— The  Babylonian  Job— The  Babylonian  Koheleth— An  anti- 
X.  EPITAPH,  263 

Chapter  X:  ASSYRIA 265 


Beginnings  —  Cities  —  Race  —  The  conquerors  —  Sennacherib  and  Esarhaddon  — 


Imperialism— Assyrian  war— The  conscript  gods— Law— Delicacies  of  penology— Ad- 
ministration—The  violence  of  Oriental  monarchies 


Industry  and  trade— Marriage  and  morals— Religion  and  science— Letters  and  libraries 
—The  Assyrian  ideal  of  a  gentleman 


Minor  arts— Bas-relief— Statuary— Building— A  page  from  "Sardanapalus" 

The  last  days  of  a  king— Sources  of  Assyrian  decay— The  fall  of  Nineveh 

Chapter  XI:  A  MOTLEY  OF  NATIONS 285 


The  ethnic  scene- Mitannians—Hittites— Armenians— Scythians— Phrygians— The  Di- 
vine Mother— Lydians— Croesus— Coinage— Croesus,  Solon  and  Cyrus 

The  antiquity  of  the  Arabs— Phoenicians— Their  world  trade— Their  circumnavigation 
of  Africa— Colonies— Tyre  and  Sidon— Deities— The  dissemination  of  the  alphabet— 
Syria-Astarte— The  death  and  resurrection  of  Adoni— The  sacrifice  of  children 

Chapter  XII:  JUDEA 299 


Palestine  -  Climate  -  Prehistory  -  Abraham's  people  -  The  Jews  in  Egypt  -  The 
Exodus  —  The  conquest  of  Canaan 


Race  —  Appearance  —  Language  —  Organization  —  Judges  and  kings  —  Saul  —  David 
—Solomon— His  wealth— The  Temple— Rise  of  the  social  problem  in  Israel 
III.  THE  GOD  OF  HOSTS,  308 

Polytheism— Yahveh— Henotheism— Character  of  the  Hebrew  religion— The  idea  of 
sin— Sacrifice— Circumcision— The  priesthood— Strange  gods 




The  class  war— Origin  of  the  Prophets— Amos  at  Jerusalem— Isaiah— His  attacks  upon 
the  rich— His  doctrine  of  a  Messiah— The  influence  of  the  Prophets 


The  birth  of  the  Bible— The  destruction  of  Jerusalem— The  Babylonian  Captivity- 
Jeremiah— Ezekiel— The  Second  Isaiah— The  liberation  of  the  Jews— The  Second 


The  "Book  of  the  Law"— The  composition  of  the  Pentateuch— The  myths  of  Genesis 
—The  Mosaic  Code— The  Ten  Commandments— The  idea  of  God— The  sabbath— 
The  Jewish  family— Estimate  of  the  Mosaic  legislation 


History  —  Fiction  —  Poetry  —  The  Psalms  —  The  Song  of  Songs  —  Proverbs  —  Job  — 
The  idea  of  immortality— The  pessimism  of  Ecclesiastes— The  advent  of  Alexander 

Chapter  XIII:    PERSIA 350 


Their  origins— Rulers— The  blood  treaty  of  Sardis— Degeneration 

The  romantic  Cyrus— His  enlightened  policies— Cambyses— Darius  the  Great— The 
invasion  of  Greece 


The  empire— The  people— The  language— The  peasants— The  in.perial  highways- 
Trade  and  finance 


The  king— The  nobles— The  army— Law— A  savage  punishment— The  capitals— The 
satrapies— An  achievement  in  administration 


The  coming  of  the  Prophet— Persian  religion  before  Zarathustra— The  Bible  of  Persia 
— Ahura-Mazda— The  good  and  the  evil  spirits— Their  struggle  for  the  possession  of 
the  world 

Man  as  a  battlefield— The  Undying  Fire— Hell,  Purgatory  and  Paradise— The  cult  of 
Mithra— The  Magi— The  Parsccs 


Violence  and  honor— The  code  of  cleanliness— Sins  of  the  flesh— Virgins  and  bache- 
lors—Marriage—Women—Children—Persian ideas  of  education 

Medicine— Minor  arts— The  tombs  of  Cyrus  and  Darius— The  palaces  of  Persepolis- 
The  Frieze  of  the  Archers— Estimate  of  Persian  art 

How  a  nation  may  die— Xerxes— A  paragraph  of  murders— Artaxerxes  II— Cyrus  the 
Younger— Darius  the  Little— Causes  of  decay:  political,  military,  moral— Alexander 
conquers  Persia,  and  advances  upon  India 




Chronological  Table  of  Indian  History 389 


I.  SCENE  OF  THE  DRAMA,  391 

The  rediscovery  of  India— A  glance  at  the  map— Climatic  influences 

Prehistoric  India— Mohenjo-daro-Its  antiquity 


The  natives— The  invaders— The  village  community— Caste— Warriors— Priests— Mer- 
chants—Workers— Outcastes 


Herders— Tillers  of  the  soil— Craftsmen— Traders— Coinage  and  credit— Morals— Mar- 


Pre-Vedic  religion— Vedic  gods— Moral  gods— The  Vedic  story  of  Creation— Im- 
mortality—The  horse  sacrifice 


Sanskrit  and  English  —  Writing  —  The  four  Vedas  —  The  Rig-weda  —  A  Hymn  of 


The  authors— Their  theme— Intellect  vs.  intuition— Atman— Brahman— Their  identity 
—A  description  of  God— Salvation— Influence  of  the  Upanishads—TLmcrson  on  Brahma 

Chapter  XV:    BUDDHA 416 

I.  THE  HERETICS,  416 

Sceptics— Nihilists— Sophists— Atheists— Materialists— Religions  without  a  god 


The  Great  Hero— The  Jain  creed— Atheistic  polytheism— Asceticism— Salvation  by 
suicide— Later  history  of  the  Jains 


The  background  of  Buddhism— The  miraculous  birth— Youth— The  sorrows  of  life- 
Flight—Ascetic  years— Enlightenment— A  vision  of  Nirvana 


Portrait  of  the  Master— His  methods— The  Four  Noble  Truths— The  Eightfold  Way 
—The  Five  Moral  Rules— Buddha  and  Christ— Buddha's  agnosticism  and  anti-clerical- 
ism—His  Atheism— His  soul-less  psychology— The  meaning  of  Nirvana 


His  miracles— He  visits  his  father's  house— The  Buddhist  monks— Death 





Alexander  in  India  —  Chandragupta  the  liberator  —  The  people  —  The  university  of 
Taxila— The  royal  palace— A  day  in  the  life  of  a  king— An  older  Alachiavelli— Admin- 
istration—Law— Public  health— Transport  and  roads— Municipal  government 


Ashoka— The  Edict  of  Tolerance— Ashoka's  missionaries— His  failure— His  success 


An  epoch  of  invasions— The  Kushan  kings— The  Gupta  Empire— The  travels  of  Fa- 
Hien— The  revival  of  letters— The  Huns  in  India— Harsha  the  generous— The  travels 
of  Yuan  Chwang 


The  Samurai  of  India— The  age  of  chivalry— The  fall  of  Chitor 


The  kingdoms  of  the  Deccan— Vijayanagar— Krishna  Raya— A  medieval  metropolis- 
Laws— Arts— Religion— Tragedy 


The  weakening  of  India— Mahmud  of  Ghazni— The  Sultanate  of  Delhi— Its  cultural 
asides— Its  brutal  policy— The  lesson  of  Indian  history 


Tamerlane— Babur— Humayun— Akbar— His  government— His  character— His  patron- 
age of  the  arts— His  passion  for  philosophy— His  friendship  for  Hinduism  and  Chris- 
tianity—His new  religion— The  last  days  of  Akbar 


The  children  of  great  men  —  Jehangir  —  Shah  Jehan  —  His  magnificence  —  His  fall  — 
Aurangzcb— His  fanaticism— His  death— The  coming  of  the  British 

Chapter  XVII:  THE  LIFE  OF  THE  PEOPLE 477 


The  jungle  background  —  Agriculture  —  Mining  —  Handicrafts  —  Commerce  — 
Money  —  Taxes  —  Famines  —  Poverty  and  wealth 


The  monarchy— Law— The  Code  of  "Manu"— Development  of  the  caste  system— Rise 
of  the  Brahmans— Their  privileges  and  powers— Their  obligations— In  defense  of  caste 


Dharma  —  Children  —  Child  marriage  —  The  art  of  love  —  Prostitution  —  Romantic 
love  —  Marriage  —  The  family  —  Woman  —  Her  intellectual  life  —  Her  rights  — 
Purdah  -  Suttee-The  Widow 


Sexual  modesty— Hygiene— Dress— Appearance— The  gentle  art  among  the  Hindus- 
Faults  and  virtues— Games— Festivals— Death 





The  Zenith  of  Buddhism—The  Two  Vehicles— Mahay  ana— Buddhism,  Stoicism  and 
Christianity— The  decay  of  Buddhism— Its  migrations:  Ceylon,  Burma,  Turkestan, 
Tibet,  Cambodia,  China,  Japan 


Hinduism— Brahma,  Vishnu,  Shiva— Krishna— Kali— Animal  gods— The  sacred  cow- 
Polytheism  and  monotheism 

III.  BELIEFS,  5 1 1 

The  Puranas—'Thc  reincarnations  of  the  universe— The  migrations  of  the  soul— Karma 
—Its  philosophical  aspects— Life  as  evil— Release 


Superstitions  —  Astrology  —  Phallic  worship  —  Ritual  —  Sacrifice  —  Purification  — 
The  sacred  waters 


Methods  of  sanctity— Heretics— Toleration— General  view  of  Hindu  religion 

Chapter  XIX:  THE  LIFE  OF  THE  MIND 526 


Its  religious  origins  —  Astronomers  —  Mathematicians  —  The  "Arabic"  numerals  —The 
decimal  system  —  Algebra  —  Geometry  —  Physics  —  Chemistry  —  Physiology  —  Vedic 
medicine  —  Physicians  —  Surgeons  —  Anesthetics  —  Vaccination  —  Hypnotism 


The  antiquity  of  Indian  philosophy— Its  prominent  role— Its  scholars— Forms— Con- 
ception of  orthodoxy— The  assumptions  of  Hindu  philosophy 

1.  THE  Nyaya  SYSTEM 

2.  THE  Vaisheshika  SYSTEM 

3.  THE  Sankbya  SYSTEM 

Its  high  repute— Metaphysics— Evolution— Atheism— Idealism— Spirit— Body,  mind 
and  soul— The  goal  of  philosophy— Influence  of  the  Sankbya 

4.  THE  Yoga  SYSTEM 

The  Holy  Men— The  antiquity  of  Yoga— Its  meaning— The  eight  stages  of  discipline 
—The  aim  of  Yoga—The  miracles  of  the  Yogi— The  sincerity  of  Yoga 

5.  THE  Purva  Mimansa 

6.  THE  Vedanta  SYSTEM 

Origin  —  Shankara  —  Logic  —  Epistemology  —  Maya  —  Psychology  —  Theology  — 
God  —  Ethics  —  Difficulties  of  the  system  —  Death  of  Shankara 

Decadence— Summary— Criticism— Influence 




Sanskrit— The  vernaculars— Grammar 

II.   EDUCATION,  556 

Schools— Methods— Universities— Moslem  education— An  emperor  on  education 

III.  THE  EPICS,  561 

The  Mahabharata—Its  story— Its  form— The  Bhagavad-Gita—'The  metaphysics  of  war 
—The  price  of  freedom— The  Ramayana—A.  forest  idyl— The  rape  of  Sita— The  Hindu 
epics  and  the  Greek 

IV.  DRAMA,  571 

Origins— The  Clay  Cart-Characteristics  of  Hindu  drama— Kalidasa— The  story  of 
Shakuntala— Estimate  of  Indian  drama 


Their  unity  in  India— Fables— History— Tales— Minor  poets— Rise  of  the  vernacular 
literature— Chandi  Das— Tulsi  Das— Poets  of  the  south— Kabir 

Chapter  XXI:  INDIAN  ART 584 

I.  THE  MINOR  ARTS,  584 

The  great  age  of  Indian  art— Its  uniqueness— Its  association  with  industry— Pottery- 
Metal— Wood-Ivory— Jewelry-Textiles 

II.  MUSIC,  586 

A  concert  in  India— Music  and  the  dance— Musicians— Scale  and  forms— Themes- 
Music  and  philosophy 


Prehistoric— The  frescoes  of  A janta— Rajput  miniatures— The  Mogul  school— The 
painters— The  theorists 

iv.  SCULPTURE,  593 

Primitive— Buddhist-Gandhara— Gupta— "Colonial"— Estimate 



Before  Ashoka— Ashokan— Buddhist— Jain— The  masterpieces  of  the  north— Their 
destruction— The  southern  style— Monolithic  temples— Structural  temples 


Ceylon  —  Java  —  Cambodia  —  The  Khmers  —  Their  religion  —  Angkor  —  Fall  of 
the  Khmers  —  Siam  —  Burma 


The  Afghan  style-The  Mogul  style-Dclhi-Agra-The  Taj  Mahal 


Decay  of  Indian  art— Hindu  and  Moslem  architecture  compared— General  view  of 
Indian  civilization 





The  arrival  of  the  Europeans— The  British  Conquest— The  Sepoy  Mutiny— Advantages 
and  disadvantages  of  British  rule 

Christianity  in  India  —  The  Brahma-Somaj  —  Mohammedanism  —  Ramakrishna  — 

III.  TAGORE,  6l8 

Science  and  art— A  family  of  geniuses— Youth  of  Rabindranath— His  poetry— His  poli- 
tics—His school 

IV.  EAST  IS  WEST,  622 

Changing  India— Economic  changes— Social— The  decaying  caste  system— Castes  and 

guilds— Untouchables— The  emergence  of  woman 

The  westernized  students  —  The  secularization  of  heaven  —  The  Indian  National 


Portrait  of  a  saint— The  ascetic— The  Christian— The  education  of  Gandhi— In  Africa 

—The  Revolt  of  1921— "I  am  the  man"— Prison  years— Young  India— The  revolution  of 

the  spinning-wheel— The  achievements  of  Gandhi 

The  revivification  of  India— The  gifts  of  India 




Chronology  of  Chinese  Civilization 636 





Geography— Race— Prehistory 


The  Creadon  according  to  China— The  coming  of  culture— Wine  and  chopsticks 
—The  virtuous  emperors— A  royal  atheist 


The  Feudal  Age  in  China— An  able  minister— The  struggle  between  custom  and 
law— Culture  and  anarchy— Love  lyrics  from  the  Book  of  Odes 


The  Book  of  Changes-Tht  yang  and  the  yin-The  Chinese  Enlightenment-Teng 
Shih,  the  Socrates  of  China 




Lao-tze— The  Tao—On  intellectuals  in  government— The  foolishness  of  laws— A 
Rousseauian  Utopia  and  a  Christian  ethic— Portrait  of  a  wise  man— The  meeting  of 
Lao-tze  and  Confucius 



Birth  and  youth— Marriage  and  divorce— Pupils  and  methods— Appearance  and 
character— The  lady  and  the  tiger— A  definition  of  good  government— Confucius 
in  office— Wander-years— The  consolations  of  old  age 



A  fragment  of  logic— The  philosopher  and  the  urchins— A  formula  of  wisdom 


Another  portrait  of  the  sage— Elements  of  character— The  Golden  Rule 


Popular  sovereignty— Government  by  example— The  decentralization  of  wealth- 
Music  and  manners— Socialism  and  revolution 


The  Confucian  scholars— Their  victory  over  the  Legalists— Defects  of  Confucian- 
ism—The contemporaneity  of  Confucius 





A  model  mother— A  philosopher  among  kings— Are  men  by  nature  good?— Single 
tax— Mencius  and  the  communists— The  profit-motive— The  right  of  revolution 


The  evil  nature  of  man— The  necessity  of  law 


The  Return  to  Nature— Governmentlcss  society— The  Way  of  Nature— The  limits 
of  the  intellect— The  evolution  of  man— The  Button-Moulder— The  influence  of 
Chinese  philosophy  in  Europe 

Chapter  XXIV:  THE  AGE  OF  THE  POETS 694 

i.  CHINA'S  BISMARCK,  694 

The  Period  of  Contending  States— The  suicide  of  Ch'u  P'ing— Shih  Huang-ti  unifies 
China-The  Great  Wall-The  "Burning  of  the  Books"-The  failure  of  Shih  Huang-ti 


Chaos  and  poverty— The  Han  Dynasty— The  reforms  of  Wu  Ti— The  income  tax— 
The  planned  economy  of  Wang  Mang— Its  overthrow— The  Tatar  invasion 

III.  THE  GLORY  OF  T*ANG,  70! 

The  new  dynasty— Tai  Tsung's  method  of  reducing  crime— An  age  of  prosperity— 
The  "Brilliant  Emperor"-The  romance  of  Yang  Kwei-fei-The  rebellion  of  An 




An  anecdote  of  Li  Po— His  youth,  prowess  and  loves— On  the  imperial  barge— The 
gospel  of  the  grape— War— The  wanderings  of  Li  Po— In  prison— "Deathless  Poetry" 


"Free  verse"— "Imagism"— "Every  poem  a  picture  and  every  picture  a  poem"— Senti- 
mentality—Perfection  of  form 

VI.  TU  FU,  713 

Tao  Ch'ien— Po  Chii-i— Poems  for  malaria— Tu  Fu  and  Li  Po— A  vision  of  war— Pros- 
perous days— Destitution— Death 

VII.  PROSE,  717 

The  abundance  of  Chinese  literature— Romances— History— Szuma  Ch'ien— Essays— 
Han  Yii  on  the  bone  of  Buddha 

VIII.  THE  STAGE,  721 

Its  low  repute  in  China— Origins—The  play— The  audience— The  actors— Music 

Chapter  XXV:  THE  AGE  OF  THE  ARTISTS 724 



The  Sung  Dynasty— A  radical  premier— His  cure  for  unemployment— The  regula- 
tion of  industry— Codes  of  wages  and  prices— The  nationalization  of  commerce- 
State  insurance  against  unemployment,  poverty  and  old  age— Examinations  for 
public  office— The  defeat  of  Wang  An-shih 


The  growth  of  scholarship— Paper  and  ink  in  China— Steps  in  the  invention  of  print- 
ing—The oldest  book— Paper  money— Movable  type— Anthologies,  dictionaries, 


Chu  Hsi— Wang  Yang-ming— Beyond  good  and  evil 

The  role  of  art  in  China— Textiles— Furniture— Jewelry— Fans— The  making  of  lacquer 
—The  cutting  of  jade— Some  masterpieces  in  bronze— Chinese  sculpture 


Chinese  architecture— The  Porcelain  Tower  of  Nanking— The  Jade  Pagoda  of  Peking 
—  The  Temple  of  Confucius  —  The  Temple  and  Altar  of  Heaven  —  The  palaces  of 
Kublai  Khan— A  Chinese  home— The  interior— Color  and  form 

IV.  PAINTING,  745 


Ku  K'ai-chhi,  the  "greatest  painter,  wit  and  fool"— Han  Yii's  miniature— The  classic 
and  the  romantic  schools— Wang  Wei— Wu  Tao-tze— Hui  Tsung,  the  artist-em- 
peror—Masters  of  the  Sung  age 


The  rejection  of  perspective— Of  realism— Line  as  nobler  than  color— Form  as 
rhythm— Representation  by  suggestion— Conventions  and  restrictions— Sincerity  of 
Chinese  art 



V.  PORCELAIN,  754 

The  ceramic  art-The  making  of  porcelain-Its  early  histoiy-Ce/tf  Awi-Enamels-The 
skill  of  Hao  Shih-chiu-C/ow0»»<?-The  age  of  K'ang-hsi-Of  Ch'ien  Lung 




The  incredible  travelers-Adventures  of  a  Venetian  in  China-The  elegance  and 
prosperity  of  Hangchow-The  palaces  of  Peking-The  Mongol  Conquest- Jenghiz 
Khan-Kublai  Khan-His  character  and  policy-His  harem-"Marco  Millions" 


Fall  of  the  Mongols  -  The  Ming  Dynasty  -  The  Manchu  invasion  -  The  Ch'ing 
Dynasty-An  enlightened  monarch-Ch'ien  Lung  rejects  the  Occident 


Population— Appearance— Dress— Peculiarities  of  Chinese  speech— Of  Chinese  writing 



The  poverty  of  the  peasant  —  Methods  of  husbandry  —  Crops  —  Tea  —  Food  —  The 
stoicism  of  the  village 


Handicrafts  —  Silk  —  Factories  —  Guilds  —  Men  of  burden  —  Roads  and  canals  - 
Merchants— Credit  and  coinage— Currency  experiments— Printing-press  inflation 


Gunpowder,  fireworks  and  war— The  compass— Poverty  of  industrial  invention- 
Geography—  Mathematics— Physics— Feng  shui— Astronomy— Medicine— Hygiene 


Superstition  and  scepticism— Animism— The  worship  of  Heaven— Ancestor-worship— 
Confucianism— Taoism— The  elixir  of  immortality— Buddhism— Religious  toleration 
and  eclecticism— Mohammedanism— Christianity— Causes  of  its  failure  in  China 

V.  THE  RULE  OF  MORALS,  788 

The  high  place  of  morals  in  Chinese  society— The  family— Children— Chastity— Prosti- 
tution—Premarital  relations— Marriage  and  love— Monogamy  and  polygamy— Concu- 
binage —  Divorce  —  A  Chinese  empress  — The  patriarchal  male  — The  subjection  of 
woman— The  Chinese  character 


The  submergence  of  the  individual— Self-government— The  village  and  the  province- 
The  laxity  of  the  law— The  severity  of  punishment— The  Emperor— The  Censor— Ad- 
ministrative boards— Education  for  public  office— Nomination  by  education— The  ex- 
amination system— Its  defects— Its  virtues 




I.  THE  WHITE  PERIL,  803 

The  conflict  of  Asia  and  Europe-The  Portuguese-The  Spanish-The  Dutch-The 
English-The  opium  trade-The  Opium  Wars-The  Tai-p'ing  Rebellion-The  War 
with  Japan— The  attempt  to  dismember  China— The  "Open  Door"— The  Empress 
Dowager-The  reforms  of  Kuang  Hsu-His  removal  from  power-The  "Boxers"- 
The  Indemnity 


The  Indemnity  students— Their  Westernization— Their  disintegrative  effect  in  China 
—The  role  of  the  missionary— Sun  Yat-sen,  the  Christian— His  youthful  adventures— 
His  meeting  with  Li  Hung-chang— His  plans  for  a  revolution— Their  success— Yuan 
Shi-k'ai— The  death  of  Sun  Yat-sen— Chaos  and  pillage— Communism— "The  north 
pacified"— Chiang  Kai-shek— Japan  in  Manchuria-At  Shanghai 


Change  in  the  village— In  the  town— The  factories— Commerce— Labor  unions— Wages 
—The  new  government— Nationalism  vs.  Westernization— The  dethronement  of  Con- 
fucius—The reaction  against  religion— The  new  morality— Marriage  in  transition- 
Birth  control— Co-education— The  "New  Tide"  in  literature  and  philosophy— The 
new  language  of  literature— Hu  Shih— Elements  of  destruction— Elements  of  renewal 

B.    JAPAN 

Chronology  of  Japanese  Civilization 826 

Chapter  XXVIII:   THE  MAKERS  OF  JAPAN 829 


How  Japan  was  created— The  role  of  earthquakes 


Racial  components— Early  civilization— Religion— Shinto— Buddhism— The  beginnings 
of  art-The  "Great  Reform" 


The  emperors— The  aristocracy— The  influence  of  China— The  Golden  Age  of 
Kyoto— Decadence 


The  shoguns— The  Kamakura  Bakufu— The  Ho  jo  Regency— Kublai  Khan's  inva- 
sion—The Ashikaga  Shogunate— The  three  buccaneers 


The  rise  of  Hideyoshi— The  attack  upon  Korea— The  conflict  with  Christianity 


The  accession  of  lyeyasu— His  philosophy— lyeyasu  and  Christianity— Death  of 
lyeyasu— The  Tokugawa  Shogunate 




I.  THE  SAMURAI,  845 

The  powerless  emperor—The  powers  of  the  shogun— The  sword  of  the  Samurai— 
The  code  of  the  Samurai-Hara-kiri-The  Forty-seven  Ronin-A  commuted  sentence 

II.  THE  LAW,  850 

The  first  code— Group  responsibility— Punishments 


Castes— An  experiment  in  the  nationalization  of  land— State  fixing  of  wages— A  fam- 
ine—Handicrafts—Artisans and  guilds 

IV.  THE  PEOPLE,  854 

Stature— Cosmetics— Costume— Diet— Etiquette— Saki— The  tea  ceremony— The  flower 
ceremony— Love  of  nature— Gardens— Homes 

V.  THE  FAMILY,  860 

The  paternal  autocrat— The  status  of  woman— Children— Sexual  morality— The 
Geisha— Love 

VI.  THE  SAINTS,  863 

Religion  in  Japan— The  transformation  of  Buddhism— The  priests— Sceptics 


Confucius  reaches  Japan— A  critic  of  religion— The  religion  of  scholarship— Kaibara 
Ekken— On  education— On  pleasure— The  rival  schools— A  Japanese  Spinoza— Ito 
Jinsai— Ito  Togai— Ogyu  Sorai— The  war  of  the  scholars— Mabuchi— Moto-ori 

Chapter  XXX:  THE  MIND  AND  ART  OF  OLD  JAPAN 876 

The  language— Writing— Education 

II.  POETRY,  878 

The  Manyoshu—ThG  Kokinshu— Characteristics  of  Japanese  poetry— Examples— The 
game  of  poetry— The  hokka-gzmblers 

ill.  PROSE,  88 1 


Lady  Muraski— The   Tale   of  Genji—Its  excellence— Later  Japanese   fiction— A 


The  historians— Arai  Hakuseki 


The  Lady  Sei  Shonagon— Kamo  no-Chomei 

IV.  THE  DRAMA,  889 

The  No  plays— Their  character— The  popular  stage— The  Japanese  Shakespeare- 
Summary  judgment 


Creative  imitation— Music  and  the  dance— 7wr0  and  netsuke—Hidzri  Jingaro— Lacquer 




Temples— Palaces—The  shrine  of  lyeyasu— Homes 


Swords-Mirrors-The  Trinity  of  Horiuji-Colossi-Religion  and  sculpture 


The  Chinese  stimulus-The  potters  of  Hizen-Pottery  and  tea-How  Goto  Saijiro 
brought  the  art  of  porcelain  from  Hizen  to  Kaga— The  nineteenth  century 

IX.  PAINTING,  901 

Difficulties  of  the  subject— Methods  and  materials— Forms  and  ideals— Korean  origins 
and  Buddhist  inspiration-The  Tosa  School-The  return  to  China-Sesshiu-Thc 
Kano  School— Koyetsu  and  Korin— The  Realistic  School 

X.  PRINTS,  907 

The  Ukiyoye  School— Its  founders— Its  masters— Hokusai— Hiroshige 


A  retrospect— Contrasts— An  estimate— The  doom  of  the  old  Japan 

Chapter  XXXI:  THE  NEW  JAPAN 914 


The  decay  of  the  Shogunate— America  knocks  at  the  door— The  Restoration— The 
Westernization  of  Japan— Political  reconstruction— The  new  constitution— Law— 
The  army— The  war  with  Russia— Its  political  results 


Industrialization— Factories— Wages— Strikes— Poverty— The  Japanese  point  of  view 


Changes  in  dress— In  manners— The  Japanese  character— Morals  and  marriage  in 
transition— Religion— Science— Japanese  medicine— Art  and  taste— Language  and  edu- 
cation—Naturalistic fiction— New  forms  of  poetry 

IV.  THE  NEW  EMPIRE,  927 

The  precarious  bases  of  the  new  civilization— Causes  of  Japanese  imperialism— 
The  Twenty-one  Demands— The  Washington  Conference— The  Immigration  Act 
of  1924— The  invasion  of  Manchuria— The  new  kingdom— Japan  and  Russia— Japan 
and  Europe— Must  America  fight  Japan? 

Envoi:  Our  Oriental  Heritage 934 

Glossary  of  Foreign  Terms 939 

Bibliography  of  Books  Referred  to  in  the  Text 945 

Notes 956 

Pronouncing  and  Biographical  Index 1001 


List  of  Illustrations 

(Illustration  Section  follows  page  xxxii) 

Cover  Design:  The  god  Shamash  transmits  a  code  of  laws  to  Hammurabi 
From  a  cylinder  in  The  Louvre 

FIG.    i.  Granite  statue  of  Rameses  II 

Turin  Museum,  Italy 
FIG.    2.  Bison  painted  in  paleolithic  cave  at  Altamira,  Spain 

Photo  by  American  Museum  of  Natural  History 
FIG.    3.  Hypothetical  reconstruction  of  a  neolithic  lake  dwelling 

American  Museum  of  Natural  History 
FIG.    4.  Development  of  the  alphabet 
FIG.    5.  Stele  of  Naram-sin 

Louvre;  photo  by  Archives  Photographiques  d'Art  et  d'Histoire 
FIG.    6.  The  "little"  Gudea 

Louvre;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.    7.  Temple  of  Der-el-Bahri 

Photo  by  Lindsley  F.  Hall 
FIG.    8.  Colonnade  and  court  of  the  temple  at  Luxor 

Photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.    9.  Hypothetical  reconstruction  of  the  Hypostyle  Hall  at  Karnak 

From  a  model  in  the  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  10.  Colonnade  of  the  Hypostyle  Hall  at  Karnak 

Underwood  &  Underwood 
>  FIG.  ii.  The  Rosetta  Stone 

British  Museum 
FIG.  12.  Diorite  head  of  the  Pharaoh  Khafre 

Cairo  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  13.  The  seated  Scribe 

Louvre;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  14.  Wooden  figure  of  the  "Sheik-el-Beled" 

Cairo  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

FIG.  15.  Sandstone  head  from  the  workshop  of  the  sculptor  Thutmose  at 

State  Museum,  Berlin;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  1 6.  Head  of  a  king,  probably  Senusret  III. 

Metropolitan  Museum  or  Art 
FIG.  17.  The  royal  falcon  and  serpent.  Limestone  relief  from  First  Dynasty 

Louvre;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
*  FIG.  1 8.  Head  of  Thutmose  III 

Cairo  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
XFiG.  19.  Rameses  II  presenting  an  offering 

Cairo  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  20.  Bronze  figure  or  the  Lady  Tekoschet 

Athens  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  An 



FIG.  21.  Seated  figure  of  Montumihait 

State  Museum,  Berlin 

FIG.  22.  Colossi  of  Rameses  II,  with  life-size  figures  of  Queen  Nofretete  at 
his  feet,  at  the  cave  temple  of  Abu  Simbel 

Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 
FIG.  23.  The  dancing  girl.  Design  on  an  ostracon 

Turin  Museum,  Italy 

FIG.  24.  Cat  watching  his  prey.  A  wall-painting  in  the  grave  of  Khnumho- 
tep  at  Beni-Hasan 

Copy  by  Howard  Carter;  courtesy  of  Egypt  Exploration  Society 
x  FIG.  25.  Chair  of  Tutenkhamon 

Cairo  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  26.  Painted  limestone  head  of  Ikhnaton's  Queen  Nofretete 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art  facsimile  of  original  in  State  Museum,  Berlin 
FIG.  27.  The  god  Shamash  transmits  a  code  of  laws  to  Hammurabi 

Louvre;  photo  copyright  by  W.  A.  Mansell  &  Co.,  London 
FIG.  28.  The  "Lion  of  Babylon."  Painted  tile-relief 

State  Museum,  Berlin;  Courtesy  of  the  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  29.  Head  of  Esarhaddon 

State  Museum,  Berlin 
FIG.  30.  The  Prism  of  Sennacherib 

Iraq  Museum;  courtesy  of  the  Oriental  Institute,  University  of  Chicago 
FIG.  31.  The  Dying  Lioness  of  Nineveh 

British  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  32.  The  Lion  Hunt;  relief  on  alabaster,  from  Nineveh 

British  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  33.  Assyrian  relief  of  Marduk  fighting  Tiamat,  from  Kalakh 

British  Museum;  photo  copyright  by  W.  A.  Mansell,  London 
FIG.  34.  Winged  Bull  from  the  palace  of  Ashurnasirpal  II  at  Kalakh 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  35.  A  street  in  Jerusalem 
FIG.  36.  Hypothetical  restoration  of  Solomon's  Temple 

Underwood  &  Underwood 
FIG.  37.  The  ruins  of  Persepolis 

Courtesy  of  the  Oriental  Institute,  University  of  Chicago 
FIG.  38.  "Frieze  of  the  Archers."  Painted  tile-relief  from  Susa 

Louvre;  photo  by  Archives  Photographiques  d'Art  et  d'Histoire 
FIG.  39.  Burning  Ghat  at  Calcutta 

Bronson  de  Cou,  from  Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 
;  FIG.  40.  "Holy  Men"  at  Benares 
j  FIG.  41.  A  fresco  at  Ajanta 
FIG.  42.  Mogul  painting  of  Durbar  of  Akbar  at  Akbarabad.  Ca.  1620 

Boston  Museum  of  Fine  Arts 
FIG.  43.  Torso  of  a  youth,  from  Sanchi 

Victoria  and  Albert  Museum,  London 
FIG.  44.  Seated  statue  of  Brahma,  loth  century 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 


FIG.  45.  The  Buddha  of  Sarnath,  5th  century 

Photo  by  A.  K.  Coomaraswamy 
\  FIG.  46.  The  Naga-King.  Fagade  relief  on  Ajanta  Cave-temple  XIX 

Courtesy  of  A.  K.  Coomaraswamy 
FIG.  47.  The  Dancing  Shiva.  South  India,  i7th  century 

Minneapolis  Institute  of  Arts 

>  FIG.  48.  The  Three-faced  Shiva,  or  Trimurti,  Elephanta 

Underwood  &  Underwood 
FIG.  49.  The  Buddha  of  Anuradhapura,  Ceylon 

Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 
FIG.  50.  Lion  capital  of  Ashoka  column 

Sarnath  Museum,  Benares;  copyright  Archaeological  Survey  of  India 
•  FIG.  51.  Sanchi  Tope,  north  gate 

Underwood  &  Underwood 
FIG.  52.  Fagade  of  the  Gautami-Putra  Monastery  at  Nasik 

India  Office,  London 
<N   FIG.  53.  Chaitya  hall  interior,  Cave  XXVI,  Ajanta., 

FIG.  54.  Interior  of  dome  of  the  Tejahpala  Temple  at  Mt.  Abu 

Johnston  &  Hoffman,  Calcutta 
FIG.  55.  Temple  of  Vimala  Sah  at  Mt.  Abu 

Underwood  &  Underwood 
FIG.  56.  Cave  XIX,  Ajanta 

Indian  State  Railways 

>  FIG.  57.  Elephanta  Caves,  near  Bombay 

By  Cowling,  from  Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 
X  FIG.  58.  The  rock-cut  Temple  of  Kailasha 
Indian  State  Railways 

>  FIG.  59.  Guardian  deities,  Temple  of  Elura 

Indian  State  Railways 
»  FIG.  60.  Fagade,  Angkor  Wat,  Indo-China 

Publishers'  Photo  Service 
;   FIG.  61.  Northeast  end  of  Angkor  Wat,  Indo-China 

Publishers'  Photo  Service 
FIG.  62.  Rabindranath  Tagore 

Underwood  &  Underwood 
FIG.  63.  Ananda  Palace  at  Pagan,  Burma 
Underwood  &  Underwood 

>  FIG.  64.  The  Taj  Mahal,  Agra 

Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 
FIG.  65.  Imperial  jewel  casket  of  blue  lacquer 

Underwood  &  Underwood 
FIG.  66.  The  lacquered  screen  of  K'ang-hsi 

Victoria  and  Albert  Museum,  London 
FIG.  67.  A  bronze  Kuan-yin  of  the  Sui  period 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  68.  Summer  Palace,  Peiping 
FIG.  69.  Temple  of  Heaven,  Peiping 

Publishers'  Photo  Service 



FIG.  70.  Portraits  of  Thirteen  Emperors.   Attributed  to  Yen  Li-pen,  7th 

Boston  Museum  of  Fine  Arts 
FIG.  71.  The  Silk-beaters.  By  the  Emperor  Hui  Tsung  (1101-26) 

Boston  Museum  of  Fine  Arts 
FIG.  72.  Landscape  with  Bridge  and  Willows.  Ma  Yuan,  i2th  century 

Boston  Museum  of  Fine  Arts 
FIG.  73.  A  hawthorn  vase  from  the  K'ang-hsi  period 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  74.  Geisha  girls 

Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 

ftc.  75.  Kiyomizu  Temple,  Kyoto,  once  a  favorite  resort  of  Japanese 

Underwood  &  Underwood 
FIG.  76.  Yo-mei-mon  Gate,  Nikko 
FIG.  77.  The  Monkeys  of  Nikko.  "Hear  no  evil,  speak  no  evil,  see  no  evil" 

Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 
FIG.  78.  Image  of  Amida-Buddha  at  Horiuji 

Photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  79.  The  bronze  halo  and  background  of  the  Amida  at  Horiuji. 

y  •          Photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

FIG.  80.  The  Vairochana  Buddha  of  Japan.   Carved  and  lacquered  wood. 
Ca.  950  A.D. 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

FiG.  8 1.  The  Daibutsu,  or  Great  Buddha,  at  Kamakura 
FIG.  82.  Monkeys  and  Birds.  By  Sesshiu,  i5th  century 
FIG.  83.  A  wave  screen  by  Korin 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  84.  The  Falls  of  Yoro.  By  Hokusai 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
FIG.  85.  Foxes.  By  Hiroshige 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

Maps  or  Egypt,  the  ancient  Near  East,  India,  and  the  Far  East 
will  be  found  on  the  inside  covers 

Illustration  Section 


FIG.  i— Granite  statue  of  Rameses  II 

FIG.  2— Bison  painted  in  paleolithic  cave  at  Altamira,  Spam 
Photo  by  American  Museum  of  Natural  History 

(See  page  96) 

FIG.  3- Hypothetical  reconstruction  of  a  neolithic  lake  dwelling 
American  Museum  of  Natural  History 

( See  page  98) 

BWUSM  MIWOW.YPH                     STOHB        OMSK 





A  A 



*  B 






r  r 





r   ^ 


K   £ 
























































P  D 






**  0 











\y  Y 



FIG.  ^-Development  of  the  alphabet 

1?   «  c 

>O  ! 


3     ^  jo  f< 

.  >    3    > 


FIG.  i-Temple  of  Der-el-Bahri 
Photo  by  Lindslcy  F.  Hall 

(Sec  page  154) 

FIG.  8- Colonnade  and  court  of  the  temple  at  Luxor 
Photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

(See  page  142) 

FIG.  9— Hypothetical  reconstruction  of  the  Hypostyle  Hall  at  Karnak 
From  a  model  in  the  Metropolitan  Museum  of  An 

FIG.  10— Colonnade  of  the  Hypostyle  Hall  at  Karnak 
Underwood  &  Underwood 

(See  page  143) 

FIG.  1 1— The  Rosetta  Stone 
British  Museum 

(See  page  145) 

FIG.  iz-Diorite  head  of  the  Pharaoh  Khafre 
Cairo  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

(Seepages  148,186) 

FIG.  ii-The  seated  Scribe 
Louvre;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

(See  pages  161, 

FIG.  14— 
Wooden  figure 

of  the 


Cairo  Museum; 

photo  by  Metro- 

politan  Museum 

of  Art 

(See  pages  168, 186) 

FIG.  i  $— Sandstone  bead  \rotn  the 
'workshop  of  the  sculptor 

Thutmose  at  Amaru  a 

State  Museum,  Berlin;  photo  by 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

FIG.  1 6— Head  of  a  king,  probably 

Scmisret  III 
Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

FIG.  ij—The  royal  falcon  and 
serpent.  Limestone  relief  from 

First  Dynasty  FIG.  iB—Head  of  Thutmose  111 

Louvre;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  Cairo  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan 

of  Art  Museum  of  Art 

(See  pages  184-190) 


iiTan  Tir 

.X  '" 


FIG.  ly—Rameses  II  presenting  an  offering 
Cairo  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

FIG.  20— Bronze  figure  of  the 

Lady  Tekoschet 
Athens  Museum;  photo  by  Metro- 
politan Museum  of  An 

FIG.  21— Seated  figure  of 

State  Museum,  Berlin 

FIG.  23— The  dancing  girl.  Design  on  an  ostracon 
Turin  Museum,  Italy 

(See  page  lyi ) 

FIG.  24— Cat  watching  his  prey.  A  'wall-painting  in  the  grave  of  Khnumhotep 

at  Beni-Hasan 
Copy  by  Howard  Carter;  courtesy  of  Egypt  Exploration  Society 

(See  page  190) 

FIG.  25— -Chair  of  Tutenkhamon 
Cairo  Museum;  photo  by  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

(Seepage  19?) 

FIG.  it-Painted  limestone  head  of  Ikhnaton's  Queen  Nofretete 

Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art  facsimile  of  original  in  State  Museum,  Berlin 

(See  page  188) 

FIG.  2j-The  god 
Shamash  transmits 
a  code  of  laws  to 

Louvre;  photo  copy- 
right W.  A.  Manscll 
•      &  Co.,  London 

•      (See  page  219) 



FIG.  29— Head  of  Esarhaddon 
State  Museum,  Berlin 

(See  page  28 i) 

FIG.  $o-The  Prism  of  Sennacherib 
Iraq  Museum;  courtesy  of  the  Oriental  Institute,  University  of  Chicago 

(See  Chapter  X) 

FIG.  32— The  Lion  Hunt;  relief  on  alabaster,  from  Nineveh 
British  Museum;  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

( See  page  279) 

FIG.  M-Assyrian  relief  of  Marduk  fighting  Tiamat,  from  Kalakh 
British  Museum;  photo  copyright  by  W.  A.  Mansell,  London 

(See  page  278) 

FIG.  ^-Winged  Bull  from  the  palace  of  Ashurnasirpal  II  at  Kalakh 
Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

(See  page  279) 

FIG.  35—^4  street  in  Jerusalem 

FIG.  ^—Hypothetical  restoration  of  Solomon's  Temple 
Underwood  &  Underwood 

(See  page 



FIG.  39- Burning  Ghat  at  Calcutta 
Bronson  de  Cou,  from  Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 

(See  page 

/•fcdfe.  **. 


FIG.  40— "Holy  Men'9  at  Benares 

FIG.  41— /4  fresco  at  Ajanta 
(See  pages  $89-90) 

FIG.  42- Mogul  painting  of  Durbar  of  Akbar  at  Akbarabad.  Co.  1620 
Boston  Museum  of  Fine  Arti 

(See  page 

FIG.  43-T07W  of  a  youth,  from  Sanchi 
Victoria  and  Albert  Museum,  London 

( See  pages 

FIG.  ^.—Seated  statue  of 

Brahma,  loth  century 
Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

FIG.  46— The  Naga-King. 

Facade  relief  on  Ajanta 

Cave-temple  XIX 

Courtesy  of 
A.  K.  Coomarasvvamv 

f S**  ptf^M  5W-tf; 

FIG.  45— The  Buddha  of 

Sarnath,  fth  century 
Photo  by  A.  K.  Coomaraswamy 

FIG.  47-TA*  Dancing  Shiva.  South  India,  nth  century 
Minneapolis  Institute  of  Arts 

(See  page  594) 



FIG.  49.— 

Buddha  of  Anuradhapura,  Ceylon 
Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 

(Sec  page  w) 

FIG.  so—Lion  capital  of  Ashoka  column 
Sarnath  Museum,  Benares;  copyright  Archaeological  Survey  of  India 

( See  page  596) 

FIG.  $\—Sanchi  Tope,  north  gate 
Underwood  &  Underwood 

(See  page  597) 

FIG.  $2-Faeade  of  the  Gautami-Putra  Monastery  at  Nasik 
India  Office,  London 

(See  page 

FIG.  $$— Chatty  a  hall  interior,  Cave  XXVI,  Ajanta 

FIG.  54- Interior  of  dome  of  the  Tejahpala  Teinple  at  Mt.  Abu 
Johnston  &  Hoffman,  Calcutta 

(See  page 

FIG.  55-  -Temple  of  Vimala  Sah  at  Mt.  Abu 
Underwood  &  Underwood 

(See  page 

FIG.  $6-Cave  X/X,  Ajmta 
Indian  State  Railway! 

(See  page  598) 

,^^;..  __,_,, 


£j  gj    ^ 
R6    ? 

Q    O      «0 


FIG.  59— Guardian  deities,  Temple  of  Elura 

Indian  State  Railways 
(See  page  601) 








FIG.  62—Rabindranath 

Underwood  &  Underwood 

(See  page  619) 

FIG.  6-$—Ananda  Palace  at 
Pagan,  Burma 

Undcr\\<>od  &  Underwood 

(See  page  606) 

FIG.  64-77*  Taj  Mahal,  Agra 

Ewing  Galloway,  N.  Y. 
(See  page  609) 

FIG.  65— Imperial  jewel  casket  of  blue  lacquer 
Underwood  &  Underwood 

(See  page  136) 

^v*-.  '-2~r»*- 











FIG.  67—^4  bronze  Kuan-yin  of  the  Sui  period 
Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

(See  page  -738) 

FIG.  68— Siniwjcr 
Palace,  Peiping 

(Sec  page  742) 

FIG.  69- Temple 
of  Heaven, 


Publishers'  Photo 


(See  page  142) 

FIG.  ji-The 


By  the  Emperor 

Hui  Tsung 


Boston  Museum 

of  Fine  Arts 

( See  page  jfo) 

FIG.  72— Land- 
scape with 
Bridge  and 
Ma  Yuan, 
i2th  century 

Boston  Museum 
of  Fine  Arts 

(See  page  ifi) 

FIG.  T$—A  hawthorn  vase  from  the  K'ang-hsi  period 
Metropolitan  Museum  of  An 

(See  page 





FIG.  7$—Kiyoimzu  Temple,  Kyoto,  once  a  favorite  resort  of  Japanese  suicides 

Underwood  &  Underwood 


FIG.  76—Yo-wei-mon  Gate,  Nikko 

(See  fiave  ffoc) 

5G-3  *. 
3  o  ^ 
*  g1  2 


FIG.  79— The  bronze  halo 

and  background  of  the 

Amida  at  Horiuji 

Photo  by 
Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

(See  page 

FIG.  78— Image  of  Amida- 
Buddha  at  Horiuji 

Photo  by 
Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

(See  page  897) 

FIG.  80— The  Vairochana  Buddha  of  Japan.  Carved  and  lacquered  wood. 

Ca.  950  A.D. 
Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 

( See  pages  896-8) 

FIG.  8 1— The  Daibutsu,  or  Great  Buddha,  at  Kamakura 

(See  page  898) 






"I  want  to  know  what  were  the  steps  by 
which  men  passed  from  barbarism  to 



The  Conditions  of  Civilization* 

Definition — Geological  conditions— Geographical— Economic— 
Racial— Psychological— Causes  of  the  decay  of  civilizations 

/CIVILIZATION  is  social  order  promoting  cultural  creation.  Four 
\^Jl  elements  constitute  it:  economic  provision,  political  organization, 
moral  traditions,  and  the  pursuit  of  knowledge  and  the  arts.  It  begins 
where  chaos  and  insecurity  end.  For  when  fear  is  overcome,  curiosity  and 
constructiveness  are  free,  and  man  passes  by  natural  impulse  towards  the 
understanding  and  embellishment  of  life. 

Certain  factors  condition  civilization,  and  may  encourage  or  impede  it. 
First,  geological  conditions.  Civilization  is  an  interlude  between  ice  ages: 
at  any  time  the  current  of  glaciation  may  rise  again,  cover  with  ice  and 
stone  the  works  of  man,  and  reduce  life  to  some  narrow  segment  of  the 
earth.  Or  the  demon  of  earthquake,  by  whose  leave  we  build  our  cities, 
may  shrug  his  shoulders  and  consume  us  indifferently. 

Second,  geographical  conditions.  The  heat  of  the  tropics,  and  the  in- 
numerable parasites  that  infest  them,  are  hostile  to  civilization;  lethargy 
and  disease,  and  a  precocious  maturity  and  decay,  divert  the  energies  from 
those  inessentials  of  life  that  make  civilization,  and  absorb  them  in  hunger 
and  reproduction;  nothing  is  left  for  the  play  of  the  arts  and  the  mind. 
Rain  is  necessary;  for  water  is  the  medium  of  life,  more  important  even 
than  the  light  of  the  sun;  the  unintelligible  whim  of  the  elements  may 
condemn  to  desiccation  regions  that  once  flourished  with  empire  and  in- 
dustry, like  Nineveh  or  Babylon,  or  may  help  to  swift  strength  and  wealth 
cities  apparently  off  the  main  line  of  transport  and  communication,  like 
those  of  Great  Britain  or  Puget  Sound.  If  the  soil  is  fertile  in  food  or 
minerals,  if  rivers  offer  an  easy  avenue  of  exchange,  if  the  coast-line  is 
indented  with  natural  harbors  for  a  commercial  fleet,  if,  above  all,  a  nation 
lies  on  the  highroad  of  the  world's  trade,  like  Athens  or  Carthage,  Flor- 

*  The  reader  will  find,  at  the  end  of  this  volume,  a  glossary  defining  foreign  terms,  a 
bibliography  with  guidance  for  further  reading,  a  pronouncing  index,  and  a  body  of 
references  corresponding  to  the  superior  figures  in  die  text. 


ence  or  Venice— then  geography,  though  it  can  never  create  it,  smiles  upon 
civilization,  and  nourishes  it. 

Economic  conditions  are  more  important.  A  people  may  possess  or- 
dered institutions,  a  lofty  moral  code,  and  even  a  flair  for  the  minor  forms 
of  art,  like  the  American  Indians;  and  yet  if  it  remains  in  the  hunting  stage, 
if  it  depends  for  its  existence  upon  the  precarious  fortunes  of  the  chase,  it 
will  never  quite  pass  from  barbarism  to  civilization.  A  nomad  stock,  like  the 
Bedouins  of  Arabia,  may  be  exceptionally  intelligent  and  vigorous,  it  may 
display  high  qualities  of  character  like  courage,  generosity  and  nobility; 
but  without  that  simple  sine  qua  non  of  culture,  a  continuity  of  food,  its 
intelligence  will  be  lavished  on  the  perils  of  the  hunt  and  the  tricks  of 
trade,  and  nothing  will  remain  for  the  laces  and  frills,  the  curtsies  and 
amenities,  the  arts  and  comforts,  of  civilization.  The  first  form  of  culture 
is  agriculture.  It  is  when  man  settles  down  to  tilTltlie  soil  and  lay  up  pro- 
visions for  the  uncertain  future  that  he  finds  time  and  reason  to  be  civilized. 
Within  that  little  circle  of  security— a  reliable  supply  of  water  and  food- 
he  builds  his  huts,  his  temples  and  his  schools;  he  invents  productive  tools, 
and  domesticates  the  dog,  the  ass,  the  pig,  at  last  himself.  He  learns  to 
work  with  regularity  and  order,  maintains  a  longer  tenure  of  life,  and 
transmits  more  completely  than  before  the  mental  and  moral  heritage  of 
his  race. 

Culture  suggests  agriculture,  but  civilization  suggests  the  city.  In  one 
aspect  civilization  is  the  habit  of  civility;  and  civility  is  the  refinement 
which  townsmen,  who  made  the  word,  thought  possible  only  in  the 
civitas  or  city.*  For  in  the  city  are  gathered,  rightly  or  wrongly,  the 
wealth  and  brains  produced  in  the  countryside;  in  the  city  invention  and 
industry  multiply  comforts,  luxuries  and  leisure;  in  the  city  traders  meet, 
and  barter  goods  and  ideas;  in  that  cross-fertilization  of  minds  at  the  cross- 
roads of  trade  intelligence  is  sharpened  and  stimulated  to  creative  power. 
In  the  city  some  men  are  set  aside  from  the  making  of  material  things,  and 
produce  science  and  philosophy,  literature  and  art.  Civilization  begins  in 
the  peasant's  hut,  but  it  comes  to  flower  only  in  the  towns. 

There  are  no  racial  conditions  to  civilization.  It  may  appear  on  any 
continent  and  in  any  color:  at  Pekin  or  Delhi,  at  Memphis  or  Babylon,  at 
Ravenna  or  London,  in  Peru  or  Yucatan.  It  is  not  the  great  race  that  makes 

•  The  word  civilization  (Latin  inrifc-pertaining  to  the  chris,  citizen)  is  comparatively 
young.  Despite  BoswelTs  suggestion  Johnson  refused  to  admit  it  to  his  Dictionary  in  1772; 
he  preferred  to  use  the  word  civility.* 


the  civilization,  it  is  the  great  civilization  that  makes  the  people;  circum- 
stances geographical  and  economic  create  a  culture,  and  the  culture 
creates  a  type.  The  Englishman  does  not  make  British  civilization,  it  makes 
him;  if  he  carries  it  with  him  wherever  he  goes,  and  dresses  for  dinner 
in  Timbuktu,  it  is  not  that  he  is  creating  his  civilization  there  anew,  but 
that  he  acknowledges  even  there  its  mastery  over  his  soul.  Given  like  ma- 
terial conditions,  and  another  race  would  beget  like  results;  Japan  repro- 
duces in  the  twentieth  century  the  history  of  England  in  the  nineteenth. 
Qvilization  is  related  to  race  only  in  the  sense  that  it  is  often  preceded  by 
the  slow  intermarriage  of  different  stocks,  and  their  gradual  assimilation 
into  a  relatively  homogeneous  people.* 

These  physical  and  biological  conditions  are  only  prerequisites  to  civ- 
ilization; they  do  not  constitute  or  generate  it.  Subtle  psychological 
factors  must  enter  into  play.  There  must  be  political  order,  even  if  it  be  so 
near  to  chaos  as  in  Renaissance  Florence  or  Rome;  men  must  feel,  by  and 
large,  that  they  need  not  look  for  death  or  taxes  at  every  turn.  There  must 
be  some  unity  of  language  to  serve  as  a  medium  of  mental  exchange. 
Through  church,  or  family,  or  school,  or  otherwise,  there  must  be  a  uni- 
fying moral  code,  some  rules  of  the  game  of  life  acknowledged  even  by 
those  who  violate  them,  and  giving  to  conduct  some  order  and  regularity, 
some  direction  and  stimulus.  Perhaps  there  must  also  be  some  unity  of  basic 
belief,  some  faith,  supernatural  or  Utopian,  that  lifts  morality  from  calcu- 
lation to  devotion,  and  gives  life  nobility  and  significance  despite  our 
mortal  brevity.  And  finally  there  must  be  education— some  technique, 
however  primitive,  for  the  transmission  of  culture.  Whether  through  imi- 
tation, initiation  or  instruction,  whether  through  father  or  mother,  teacher 
or  priest,  the  lore  and  heritage  of  the  tribe— its  language  and  knowledge, 
its  morals  and  manners,  its  technology  and  arts— must  be  handed  down  to 
the  young,  as  the  very  instrument  through  which  they  are  turned  from 
animals  into  men. 

The  disappearance  of  these  conditions— sometimes  of  even  one  of  them 
—may  destroy  a  civilization.  A  geological  cataclysm  or  a  profound  cli- 
matic change;  an  uncontrolled  epidemic  like  that  which  wiped  out  half  the 
population  of  the  Roman  Empire  under  the  Antonines,  or  the  Black  Death 
that  helped  to  end  the  Feudal  Age;  the  exhaustion  of  the  land,  or  the  ruin 

*  Blood,  as  distinct  from  race,  may  affect  a  civilization  in  the  sense  that  a  nation  may 
be  retarded  or  advanced  by  breeding  from  the  biologically  (not  racially)  worse  or  better 
strains  among  the  people. 


of  agriculture  through  the  exploitation  of  the  country  by  the  town,  result- 
ing in  a  precarious  dependence  upon  foreign  food  supplies;  the  failure  of 
natural  resources,  either  of  fuels  or  of  raw  materials;  a  change  in  trade 
routes,  leaving  a  nation  off  the  main  line  of  the  world's  commerce;  mental 
or  moral  decay  from  the  strains,  stimuli  and  contacts  of  urban  life,  from 
the  breakdown  of  traditional  sources  of  social  discipline  and  the  inability 
to  replace  them;  the  weakening  of  the  stock  by  a  disorderly  sexual  life,  or 
by  an  epicurean,  pessimist,  or  quietist  philosophy;  the  decay  of  leadership 
through  the  infertility  of  the  able,  and  the  relative  smallness  of  the  fami- 
lies that  might  bequeath  most  fully  the  cultural  inheritance  of  the  race;  a 
pathological  concentration  of  wealth,  leading  to  class  wars,  disruptive 
revolutions,  and  financial  exhaustion:  these  are  some  of  the  ways  in  which 
a  civilization  may  die.  For  civilization  is  not  something  inborn  or  imper- 
ishable; it  must  be  acquired  anew  by  every  generation,  and  any  serious 
interruption  in  its  financing  or  its  transmission  may  bring  it  to  an  end.  Man 
differs  from  the  beast  only  by  education,  which  may  be  defined  as  the 
technique  of  transmitting  civilization. 

Civilizations  are  the  generations  of  the  racial  soul.  As  family-rearing, 
and  then  writing,  bound  the  generations  together,  handing  down  the  lore 
of  the  dying  to  the  young,  so  print  and  commerce  and  a  thousand  ways 
of  communication  may  bind  the  civilizations  together,  and  preserve  for 
future  cultures  all  that  is  of  value  for  them  in  our  own.  Let  us,  before 
we  die,  gather  up  our  heritage,  and  offer  it  to  our  children. 


The  Economic  Elements 
of  Civilization* 

IN  one  important  sense  the  "savage,"  too,  is  civilized,  for  he  carefully 
transmits  to  his  children  the  heritage  of  the  tribe— that  complex  of 
economic,  political,  mental  and  moral  habits  and  institutions  which  it  has 
developed  in  its  efforts  to  maintain  and  enjoy  itself  on  the  earth.  It  is 
impossible  to  be  scientific  here;  for  in  calling  other  human  beings  "savage" 
or  "barbarous"  we  may  be  expressing  no  objective  fact,  but  only  our  fierce 
fondness  for  ourselves,  and  our  timid  shyness  in  the  presence  of  alien  ways. 
Doubtless  we  underestimate  these  simple  peoples,  who  have  so  much  to 
teach  us  in  hospitality  and  morals;  if  we  list  the  bases  and  constituents  of 
civilization  we  shall  find  that  the  naked  nations  invented  or  arrived  at  all 
but  one  of  them,  and  left  nothing  for  us  to  add  except  embellishments  and 
writing.  Perhaps  they,  too,  were  once  civilized,  and  desisted  from  it  as  a 
nuisance.  We  must  make  sparing  use  of  such  terms  as  "savage"  and  "bar- 
barous" in  referring  to  our  "contemporaneous  ancestry."  Preferably  we 
shall  call  "primitive"  all  tribes  that  make  little  or  no  provision  for  un- 
productive days,  and  little  or  no  use  of  writing.  In  contrast,  the  civilized 
may  be  defined  as  literate  providers. 


Primitive  improvidence— Beginnings  of  provision— Hunting  and 
fishing— Herding— The  domestication  of  animals— Agri- 
culture—Food— Cooking— Cannibalism 

"Three  meals  a  day  are  a  highly  advanced  institution.  Savages  gorge 
themselves  or  fast."1  The  wilder  tribes  among  the  American  Indians  con- 

*  Despite  recent  high  example  to  the  contrary,1  the  word  civilization  will  be  used  in 
this  volume  to  mean  social  organization,  moral  order,  and  cultural  activity;  while  culture 
will  mean,  according  to  the  context,  cither  the  practice  of  manners  and  the  arts,  or  the 
sum-total  of  a  people's  institutions,  customs  and  arts.  It  is  in  the  latter  sense  that  the 
word  culture  will  be  used 'in  reference  to  primitive  or  prehistoric  societies. 


sidered  it  weak-kneed  and  unseemly  to  preserve  food  for  the  next  day." 
The  natives  of  Australia  are  incapable  of  any  labor  whose  reward  is  not 
immediate;  every  Hottentot  is  a  gentleman  of  leisure;  and  with  the  Bush- 
men of  Africa  it  is  always  "either  a  feast  or  a  famine."4  There  is  a  mute 
wisdom  in  this  improvidence,  as  in  many  "savage"  ways.  The  moment 
man  begins  to  take  thought  of  the  morrow  he  passes  out  of  the  Garden  of 
Eden  into  the  vale  of  anxiety;  the  pale  cast  of  worry  settles  down  upon 
him,  greed  is  sharpened,  property  begins,  and  the  good  cheer  of  the 
"thoughtless"  native  disappears.  The  American  Negro  is  making  this 
transition  today.  "Of  what  are  you  thinking?"  Peary  asked  one  of  his 
Eskimo  guides.  "I  do  not  have  to  think,"  was  the  answer;  "I  have  plenty 
of  meat."  Not  to  think  unless  we  have  to— there  is  much  to  be  said  for  this 
as  the  summation  of  wisdom. 

Nevertheless,  there  were  difficulties  in  this  care-lessness,  and  those  or- 
ganisms that  outgrew  it  came  to  possess  a  serious  advantage  in  the  struggle 
for  survival.  The  dog  that  buried  .the  bone  which  even  a  canine  appetite 
could  not  manage,  the  squirrel  that  gathered  nuts  for  a  later  feast,  the 
bees  that  filled  the  comb  with  honey,  the  ants  that  laid  up  stores  for  a 
rainy  day— these  were  among  the  first  creators  of  civilization.  It  was  they, 
or  other  subtle  creatures  like  them,  who  taught  our  ancestors  the  art  of 
providing  for  tomorrow  out  of  the  surplus  of  today,  or  of  preparing  for 
winter  in  summer's  time  of  plenty. 

With  what  skill  those  ancestors  ferreted  out,  from  land  and  sea,  the  food 
that  was  the  basis  of  their  simple  societies!  They  grubbed  edible  things 
from  the  earth  with  bare  hands;  they  imitated  or  used  the  claws  and  tusks 
of  the  animals,  and  fashioned  tools  out  of  ivory,  bone  or  stone;  they  made 
nets  and  traps  and  snares  of  rushes  or  fibre,  and  devised  innumerable 
artifices  for  fishing  and  hunting  their  prey.  The  Polynesians  had  nets  a 
thousand  ells  long,  which  could  be  handled  only  by  a  hundred  men;  in  such 
ways  economic  provision  grew  hand  in  hand  with  political  organization, 
and  the  united  quest  for  food  helped  to  generate  the  state.  The  Tlingit 
fisherman  put  upon  his  head  a  cap  like  the  head  of  a  seal,  and  hiding  his 
body  among  the  rocks,  made  a  noise  like  a  seal;  seals  came  toward  him, 
and  he  speared  them  with  the  clear  conscience  of  primitive  war.  Many 
tribes  threw  narcotics  into  the  streams  to  stupefy  the  fish  into  cooperation 
with  the  fishermen;  the  Tahitians,  for  example,  put  into  the  water  an  in- 
toxicating mixture  prepared  from  the  butco  nut  or  the  hora  plant;  the 
fish,  drunk  with  it,  floated  leisurely  on  the  surface,  and  were  caught  at  the 


anglers'  will.  Australian  natives,  swimming  under  water  while  breathing 
through  a  reed,  pulled  ducks  beneath  the  surface  by  the  legs,  and  gently 
held  them  there  rill  they  were  pacified.  The  Tarahumaras  caught  birds  by 
stringing  kernels  on  tough  fibres  half  buried  under  the  ground;  the  birds 
ate  the  kernels,  and  the  Tarahumaras  ate  the  birds." 

Hunting  is  now  to  most  of  us  a  game,  whose  relish  seems  based  upon 
some  mystic  remembrance,  in  the  blood,  of  ancient  days  when  to  hunter  as 
well  as  hunted  it  was  a  matter  of  life  and  death.  For  hunting  was  not 
merely  a  quest  for  food,  it  was  a  war  for  security  and  mastery,  a  war 
beside  which  all  the  wars  of  recorded  history  are  but  a  little  noise.  In  the 
jungle  man  still  fights  for  his  life,  for  though  there  is  hardly  an  animal 
that  will  attack  him  unless  it  is  desperate  for  food  or  cornered  in  the  chase, 
yet  there  is  not  always  food  for  all,  and  sometimes  only  the  fighter,  or  the 
breeder  of  fighters,  is  allowed  to  eat.  We  see  in  our  museums  the  relics 
of  that  war  of  the  species  in  the  knives,  clubs,  spears,  arrows,  lassos,  bolas, 
lures,  traps,  boomerangs  and  slings  with  which  primitive  men  won  posses- 
sion of  the  land,  and  prepared  to  transmit  to  an  ungrateful  posterity  the 
gift  of  security  from  every  beast  except  man.  Even  today,  after  all 
these  wars  of  elimination,  how  many  different  populations  move  over  the 
earth!  Sometimes,  during  a  walk  in  the  woods,  one  is  awed  by  the  variety 
of  languages  spoken  there,  by  the  myriad  species  of  insects,  reptiles,  carni- 
vores and  birds;  one  feels  that  man  is  an  interloper  on  this  crowded  scene, 
that  he  is  the  object  of  universal  dread  and  endless  hostility.  Some  day, 
perhaps,  these  chattering  quadrupeds,  these  ingratiating  centipedes,  these 
insinuating  bacilli,  will  devour  man  and  all  his  works,  and  free  the  planet 
from  this  marauding  biped,  these  mysterious  and  unnatural  weapons,  these 
careless  feet! 

Hunting  and  fishing  were  not  stages  in  economic  development,  they 
were  modes  of  activity  destined  to  survive  into  the  highest  forms  of  civil- 
ized society.  Once  the  center  of  life,  they  are  still  its  hidden  foundations; 
behind  our  literature  and  philosophy,  our  ritual  and  art,  stand  the  stout 
killers  of  Packingtown.  We  do  our  hunting  by  proxy,  not  having  the 
stomach  for  honest  killing  in  the  fields;  but  our  memories  of  the  chase 
linger  in  our  joyful  pursuit  of  anything  weak  or  fugitive,  and  in  the  games 
of  our  children— even  in  the  word  game.  In  the  last  analysis  civilization  is 
based  upon  the  food  supply.  The  cathedral  and  the  capitol,  the  museum 
and  the  concert  chamber,  the  library  and  the  university  are  the  fajade; 
in  the  rear  are  the  shambles. 


To  live  by  hunting  was  not  original;  if  man  had  confined  himself  to 
that  he  would  have  been  just  another  carnivore.  He  began  to  be  human 
when  out  of  the  uncertain  hunt  he  developed  the  greater  security  and 
continuity  of  the  pastoral  life.  For  this  involved  advantages  of  high  import- 
ance: the  domestication  of  animals,  the  breeding  of  cattle,  and  the  use  of 
milk.  We  do  not  know  when  or  how  domestication  began— perhaps  when 
the  helpless  young  of  slain  beasts  were  spared  and  brought  to  the  camp 
as  playthings  for  the  children.'  The  animal  continued  to  be  eaten,  but 
not  so  soon;  it  acted  as  a  beast  of  burden,  but  it  was  accepted  almost  demo- 
cratically into  the  society  of  man;  it  became  his  comrade,  and  formed 
with  him  a  community  of  labor  and  residence.  The  miracle  of  reproduc- 
tion was  brought  under  control,  and  two  captives  were  multiplied  into  a 
herd.  Animal  milk  released  women  from  prolonged  nursing,  lowered 
infantile  mortality,  and  provided  a  new  and  dependable  food.  Population 
increased,  life  became  more  stable  and  orderly,  and  the  mastery  of  that 
timid  parvenu,  man,  became  more  secure  on  the  earth. 

Meanwhile  woman  was  making  the  greatest  economic  discovery  of 
all— the  bounty  of  the  soil.  While  man  hunted  she  grubbed  about  the  tent 
or  hut  for  whatever  edible  things  lay  ready  to  her  hand  on  the  ground.  In 
Australia  it  was  understood  that  during  the  absence  of  her  mate  on  the 
chase  the  wife  would  dig  for  roots,  pluck  fruit  and  nuts  from  the  trees, 
and  collect  honey,  mushrooms,  seeds  and  natural  grains/  Even  today,  in 
certain  tribes  of  Australia,  the  grains  that  grow  spontaneously  out  of  the 
earth  are  harvested  without  any  attempt  to  separate  and  sow  the  seed;  the 
Indians  of  the  Sacramento  River  Valley  never  advanced  beyond  this  stage." 
We  shall  never  discover  when  men  first  noted  the  function  of  the  seed,  and 
turned  collecting  into  sowing;  such  beginnings  are  the  mysteries  of  his- 
tory, about  which  we  may  believe  and  guess,  but  cannot  know.  It  is 
possible  that  when  men  began  to  collect  implanted  grains,  seeds  fell  along 
the  way  between  field  and  camp,  and  suggested  at  last  the  great  secret 
of  growth.  The  Juangs  threw  the  seeds  together  into  the  ground,  leaving 
them  to  find  their  own  way  up.  The  natives  of  Borneo  put  the  seed  into 
holes  which  they  dug  with  a  pointed  stick  as  they  walked  the  fields.9  The 
simplest  known  culture  of  the  earth  is  with  this  stick  or  "digger."  In  Mada- 
gascar fifty  years  ago  the  traveler  could  still  see  women  armed  with  pointed 
sticks,  standing  in  a  row  like  soldiers,  and  then,  at  a  signal,  digging  their 
sticks  into  the  ground,  turning  over  the  soil,  throwing  in  the  seed,  stamp- 
ing the  earth  flat,  and  passing  on  to  another  furrow.10  The  second  stage  in 


complexity  was  culture  with  the  hoe:  the  digging  stick  was  tipped  with 
bone,  and  fitted  with  a  crosspiece  to  receive  the  pressure  of  the  foot. 
When  the  Conquistadores  arrived  in  Mexico  they  found  that  the  Aztecs 
knew  no  other  tool  of  tillage  than  the  hoe.  With  the  domestication  of 
animals  and  the  forging  of  metals  a  heavier  implement  could  be  used;  the 
hoe  was  enlarged  into  a  plough,  and  the  deeper  turning  of  the  soil  revealed 
a  fertility  in  the  earth  that  changed  the  whole  career  of  man.  Wild  plants 
were  domesticated,  new  varieties  were  developed,  old  varieties  were 

Finally  nature  taught  man  the  art  of  provision,  the  virtue  of  prudence,* 
the  concept  of  time.  Watching  woodpeckers  storing  acorns  in  the  trees, 
and  the  bees  storing  honey  in  hives,  man  conceived—perhaps  after  millen- 
niums of  improvident  savagery—the  notion  of  laying  up  food  for  the  future. 
He  found  ways  of  preserving  meat  by  smoking  it,  salting  it,  freezing  it; 
better  still,  he  built  granaries  secure  from  rain  and  damp,  vermin  and 
thieves,  and  gathered  food  into  them  for  the  leaner  months  of  the  year. 
Slowly  it  became  apparent  that  agriculture  could  provide  a  better  and 
steadier  food  supply  than  hunting.  With  that  realization  man  took  one  of 
the  three  steps  that  led  from  the  beast  to  civilization— speech,  agriculture, 
and  writing. 

It  is  not  to  be  supposed  that  man  passed  suddenly  from  hunting  to 
tillage.  Many  tribes,  like  the  American  Indians,  remained  permanently 
becalmed  in  the  transition— the  men  given  to  the  chase,  the  women  tilling 
the  soil.  Not  only  was  the  change  presumably  gradual,  but  it  was  never 
complete.  Man  merely  added  a  new  way  of  securing  food  to  an  old  way; 
and  for  the  most  part,  throughout  his  history,  he  has  preferred  the  old 
food  to  the  new.  We  picture  early  man  experimenting  with  a  thousand 
products  of  the  earth  to  find,  at  much  cost  to  his  inward  comfort,  which 
of  them  could  be  eaten  safely;  mingling  these  more  and  more  with  the 
fruits  and  nuts,  the  flesh  and  fish  he  was  accustomed  to,  but  always  yearn- 
ing for  the  booty  of  the  chase.  Primitive  peoples  are  ravenously  fond  of 
meat,  even  when  they  live  mainly  on  cereals,  vegetables  and  milk." 
If  they  come  upon  the  carcass  of  a  recently  dead  animal  the  result  is  likely 
to  be  a  wild  debauch.  Very  often  no  time  is  wasted  on  cooking;  the  prey 
is  eaten  raw,  as  fast  as  good  teeth  can  tear  and  devour  it;  soon  nothing  is 
left  but  the  bones.  Whole  tribes  have  been  known  to  feast  for  a  week  on  a 

*  Note  the  ultimate  identity  of  the  words  provision,  providence  and  prudence. 


whale  thrown  up  on  the  shore."  Though  the  Fuegians  can  cook,  they 
prefer  their  meat  raw;  when  they  catch  a  fish  they  kill  it  by  biting  it  behind 
the  gills,  and  then  consume  it  from  head  to  tail  without  further  ritual." 
The  uncertainty  of  the  food  supply  made  these  nature  peoples  almost  lit- 
erally omnivorous:  shellfish,  sea  urchins,  frogs,  toads,  snails,  mice,  rats, 
spiders,  earthworms,  scorpions,  moths,  centipedes,  locusts,  caterpillars,  liz- 
ards, snakes,  boas,  dogs,  horses,  roots,  lice,  insects,  larvae,  the  eggs  of  rep- 
tiles and  birds— there  is  not  one  of  these  but  was  somewhere  a  delicacy,  or 
.  even  a  piece  de  resistance,  to  primitive  men.u  Some  tribes  are  expert  hunt- 
ers of  ants;  others  dry  insects  in  the  sun  and  then  store  them  for  a  feast; 
others  pick  the  lice  out  of  one  another's  hair,  and  eat  them  with  relish; 
if  a  great  number  of  lice  can  be  gathered  to  make  a  petite  marmite,'\hey 
are  devoured  with  shouts  of  joy,  as  enemies  of  the  human  race.15  The 
menu  of  the  lower  hunting  tribes  hardly  differs  from  that  of  the  higher 

The  discovery  of  fire  limited  this  indiscriminate  voracity,  and  cooperated 
with  agriculture  to  free  man  from  the  chase.  Cooking  broke  down  the 
cellulose  and  starch  of  a  thousand  plants  indigestible  in  their  raw  state, 
and  man  turned  more  and  more  to  cereals  and  vegetables  as  his  chief  reli- 
ance. At  the  same  time  cooking,  by  softening  tough  foods,  reduced  the 
need  of  chewing,  and  began  that  decay  of  the  teeth  which  is  one  of  the 
insignia  of  civilization. 

To  all  the  varied  articles  of  diet  that  we  have  enumerated,  man  added 
the  greatest  delicacy  of  all— his  fellowman.  Cannibalism  was  at  one 
time  practically  universal;  it  has  been  found  in  nearly  all  primitive  tribess, 
and  among  such  later  peoples  as  the  Irish,  the  Iberians,  the  Picts,  and  the 
eleventh-century  Danes."  Among  many  tribes  human  flesh  was  a  staple 
of  trade,  and  funerals  were  unknown.  In  the  Upper  Congo  living  men, 
women  and  children  were  bought  and  sold  frankly  as  articles  of  food;1* 
on  the  island  of  New  Britain  human  meat  was  sold  in  shops  as  butcher's 
meat  is  sold  among  ourselves;  and  in  some  of  the  Solomon  Islands  human 
victims,  preferably  women,  were  fattened  for  a  feast  like  pigs.19  The 
Fuegians  ranked  women  above  dogs  because,  they  said,  "dogs  taste  of 
otter."  In  Tahiti  an  old  Polynesian  chief  explained  his  diet  to  Pierre  Loti: 
'The  white  man,  when  well  roasted,  tastes  like  a  ripe  banana."  The  Fiji- 
ans,  however,  complained  that  the  flesh  of  the  whites  was  too  salty  and 
tough,  and  that  a  European  sailor  was  hardly  fit  to  eat;  a  Polynesian  tasted 


What  was  the  origin  of  this  practice?  There  is  no  surety  that  the 
custom  arose,  as  formerly  supposed,  out  of  a  shortage  of  other  food;  if  it 
did,  the  taste  once  formed  survived  the  shortage,  and  became  a  passionate 
predilection.*  Everywhere  among  nature  peoples  blood  is  regarded  as  a 
delicacy— never  with  horror;  even  primitive  vegetarians  take  to  it  with 
gusto.  Human  blood  is  constantly  drunk  by  tribes  otherwise  kindly  and 
generous;  sometimes  as  medicine,  sometimes  as  a  rite  or  covenant,  often 
in  the  belief  that  it  will  add  to  the  drinker  the  vital  force  of  the  victim." 
No  shame  was  felt  in  preferring  human  flesh;  primitive  man  seems  to  have 
recognized  no  distinction  in  morals  between  eating  men  and  eating  other 
animals.  In  Melanesia  the  chief  who  could  treat  his  friends  to  a  dish  of 
roast  man  soared  in  social  esteem.  "When  I  have  slain  an  enemy,"  ex- 
plained a  Brazilian  philosopher-chief,  "it  is  surely  better  to  eat  him  than 
to  let  him  waste.  .  .  .  The  worst  is  not  to  be  eaten,  but  to  die;  if  I  am 
killed  it  is  all  the  same  whether  my  tribal  enemy  eats  me  or  not.  But  I 
could  not  think  of  any  game  that  would  taste  better  than  he  would.  .  .  . 
You  whites  are  really  too  dainty."" 

Doubtless  the  custom  had  certain  social  advantages.  It  anticipated  Dean 
Swift's  plan  for  the  utilization  of  superfluous  children,  and  it  gave  the  old 
an  opportunity  to  die  usefully.  There  is  a  point  of  view  from  which  funer- 
als seem  an  unnecessary  extravagance.  To  Montaigne  it  appeared  more 
barbarous  to  torture  a  man  to  death  under  the  cover  of  piety,  as  was  the 
mode  of  his  time,  than  to  roast  and  eat  him  after  he  was  dead.  We  must 
respect  one  another's  delusions. 


Fire—Primitive  Tools—Weaving  and  pottery— Building  and  trans- 
port—Trade and  finance 

If  man  began  with  speech,  and  civilization  with  agriculture,  industry 
began  with  fire.  Man  did  not  invent  it;  probably  nature  produced  the 
marvel  for  him  by  the  friction  of  leaves  or  twigs,  a  stroke  of  lightning,  or 
a  chance  union  of  chemicals;  man  merely  had  the  saving  wit  to  imitate 
nature,  and  to  improve  upon  her.  He  put  the  wonder  to  a  thousand  uses. 
First,  perhaps,  he  made  it  serve  as  a  torch  to  conquer  his  fearsome  enemy, 
the  dark;  then  he  used  it  for  warmth,  and  moved  more  freely  from  his 
native  tropics  to  less  enervating  zones,  slowly  making  the  planet  human; 
then  he  applied  it  to  metals,  softening  them,  tempering  them,  and  com- 


bining  them  into  forms  stronger  and  suppler  than  those  in  which  they  had 
come  to  his  hand.  So  beneficent  and  strange  was  it  that  fire  always  re- 
mained a  miracle  to  primitive  man,  fit  to  be  worshiped  as  a  god;  he  offered 
it  countless  ceremonies  of  devotion,  and  made  it  the  center  or  focus  (which 
is  Latin  for  hearth)  of  his  life  and  home;  he  carried  it  carefully  with  him 
as  he  moved  from  place  to  place  in  his  wanderings,  and  would  not  will- 
ingly let  it  die.  Even  the  Romans  punished  with  death  the  careless  vestal 
virgin  who  allowed  the  sacred  fire  to  be  extinguished. 

Meanwhile,  in  the  midst  of  hunting,  herding  and  agriculture,  invention 
was  busy,  and  the  primitive  brain  was  racking  itself  to  find  mechanical 
answers  to  the  economic  puzzles  of  life.  At  first  man  was  content,  appar- 
ently, to  accept  what  nature  offered  him— the  fruits  of  the  earth  as  his 
food,  the  skins  and  furs  of  the  animals  as  his  clothing,  the  caves  in  the 
hillsides  as  his  home.  Then,  perhaps  (for  most  history  is  guessing,  and  the 
rest  is  prejudice),  he  imitated  the  tools  and  industry  of  the  animal:  he  saw 
the  monkey  flinging  rocks  and  fruit  upon  his  enemies,  or  breaking  open 
nuts  and  oysters  with  a  stone;  he  saw  the  beaver  building  a  dam,  the  birds 
making  nests  and  bowers,  the  chimpanzees  raising  something  very  like  a 
hut.  He  envied  the  power  of  their  claws,  teeth,  tusks  and  horns,  and  the 
toughness  of  their  hides;  and  he  set  to  work  to  fashion  tools  and  weapons 
that  would  resemble  and  rival  these.  Man,  said  Franklin,  is  a  tool-using 
animal;**  but  this,  too,  like  the  other  distinctions  on  which  we  plume  our- 
selves, is  only  a  difference  of  degree. 

Many  tools  lay  potential  in  the  plant  world  that  surrounded  primitive 
man.  From  the  bamboo  he  made  shafts,  knives,  needles  and  bottles;  out  of 
branches  he  made  tongs,  pincers  and  vices;  from  bark  and  fibres  he  wove 
cord  and  clothing  of  a  hundred  kinds.  Above  all,  he  made  himself  a  stick. 
It  was  a  modest  invention,  but  its  uses  were  so  varied  that  man  always 
looked  upon  it  as  a  symbol  of  power  and  authority,  from  the  wand  of  the 
fairies  and  the  staff  of  the  shepherd  to  the  rod  of  Moses  or  Aaron,  the 
ivory  cane  of  the  Roman  consul,  the  lituus  of  the  augurs,  and  the  mace 
of  the  magistrate  or  the  king.  In  agriculture  the  stick  became  the  hoe;  in 
war  it  became  the  lance  or  javelin  or  spear,  the  sword  or  bayonet."  Again, 
man  used  the  mineral  world,  and  shaped  stones  into  a  museum  of  arms 
and  implements:  hammers,  anvils,  kettles,  scrapers,  arrow-heads,  saws, 
planes,  wedges,  levers,  axes  and  drills,  from  the  animal  world  he  made 
ladles,  spoons,  vases,  gourds,  plates,  cups,  razors  and  hooks  out  of  the 
shells  of  the  shore,  and  tough  or  dainty  tools  out  of  the  horn  or  ivory,  the 


teeth  and  bones,  the  hair  and  hide  of  the  beasts.  Most  of  these  fashioned 
articles  had  handles  of  wood,  attached  to  them  in  cunning  ways,  bound 
with  braids  of  fibre  or  cords  of  animal  sinew,  and  occasionally  glued 
with  strange  mixtures  of  blood.  The  ingenuity  of  primitive  men  prob- , 
ably  equaled— perhaps  it  surpassed— that  of  the  average  modern  man;  we 
differ  from  them  through  the  social  accumulation  of  knowledge,  materials 
and  tools,  rather  than  through  innate  superiority  of  brains.  Indeed,  nature 
men  delight  in  mastering  the  necessities  of  a  situation  with  inventive  wit. 
It  was  a  favorite  game  among  the  Eskimos  to  go  off  into  difficult  and  de- 
serted places,  and  rival  one  another  in  devising  means  for  meeting  the 
needs  of  a  life  unequipped  and  unadorned." 

*  This  primitive  skill  displayed  itself  proudly  in  the  art  of  weaving.   Here, 
too,  the  animal  showed  man  the  way.    The  web  of  the  spider,  the  nest  of 
the  bird,  the  crossing  and  texture  of  fibres  and  leaves  in  the  natural  em- 
broidery of  the  woods,  set  an  example  so  obvious  that  in  all  probability  weav- 
ing was  one  of  the  earliest  arts  of  the  human  race.    Bark,  leaves  and  grass 
fibres  were  woven  into  clothing,  carpets  and  tapestry,  sometimes  so  excellent 
that  it  could  not  be  rivaled  today,  even  with  the  resources  of  contemporary 
machinery.    Aleutian  women  may  spend  a  year  in  weaving  one  robe.    The 
blankets  and  garments  made  by  the  North  American  Indians  were  richly 
ornamented  with  fringes  and  embroideries  of  hairs  and  tendon-threads  dyed 
in  brilliant  colors  with  berry  juice;  colors  "so  alive,"  says  Father  Thcodut, 
"that  ours  do  not  seem  even  to  approach  them."*7    Again  art  began  where 
nature  left  off;  the  bones  of  birds  and  fishes,  and  the  slim  shoots  of  the 
bamboo  tree,  were  polished  into  needles,  and  the  tendons  of  animals  were 
drawn  into  threads  delicate  enough  to  pass  through  the  eye  of  the  finest 
needle  today.    Bark  was  beaten  into  mats  and  cloths,  skins  were  dried  for 
clothing  and  shoes,  fibres  were  twisted  into  the  strongest  yarn,  and  supple 
branches  and  colored  filaments  were  woven  into  baskets  more  beautiful  than 
any  modern  forms." 

Akin  to  basketry,  perhaps  born  of  it,  was  the  art  of  pottery.  Clay  placed 
upon  wickerwork  to  keep  the  latter  from  being  burned,  hardened  into  a 
fireproof  shell  which  kept  its  form  when  the  wickerwork  was  taken  away;" 
this  may  have  been  the  first  stage  of  a  development  that  was  to  culminate 
in  the  perfect  porcelains  of  China.  Or  perhaps  some  lumps  of  clay,  baked 
and  hardened  by  the  sun,  suggested  the  ceramic  art;  it  was  but  a  step  from 
this  to  substitute  fire  for  the  sun,  and  to  form  from  the  earth  myriad  shapes 
of  vessels  for  every  use— for  cooking,  storing  and  transporting,  at  last  for 

*  Reduced  type,  unindented,  will  be  used  occasionally  for  technical  or  dispensable  matter. 


.luxury  and  ornament.  Designs  imprinted  by  finger-nail  or  tool  upon  the 
•  wet  clay  were  one  of  the  first  forms  of  art,  and  perhaps  one  of  the  origins 
*of  writing. 

Out  of  sun-dried  clay  primitive  tribes  made  bricks  and  adobe,  and  dwelt, 
so  to  speak,  in  pottery.  But  that  was  a  late  stage  of  the  building  art,  bind- 
ing the  mud  hut  of  the  "savage"  in  a  chain  of  continuous  development  with 
the  brilliant  tiles  of  Nineveh  and  Babylon.  Some  primitive  peoples,  like  the 
Veddahs  of  Ceylon,  had  no  dwellings  at  all,  and  were  content  with  the 
earth  and  the  sky;  some,  like  the  Tasmanians,  slept  in  hollow  trees;  some, 
like  the  natives  of  New  South  Wales,  lived  in  caves;  others,  like  the  Bush- 
men, built  here  and  there  a  wind-shelter  of  branches,  or,  more  rarely,  drove 
piles  into  the  soil  and  covered  their  tops  with  moss  and  twigs.  From  such 
wind-shelters,  when  sides  were  added,  evolved  the  hut,  which  is  found 
among  the  natives  of  Australia  in  all  its  stages  from  a  tiny  cottage  of 
branches,  grass  and  earth  large  enough  to  cover  two  or  three  persons,  to 
great  huts  housing  thirty  or  more.  The  nomad  hunter  or  herdsman  pre- 
ferred a  tent,  which  he  could  carry  wherever  the  chase  might  lead  him. 
The  higher  type  of  nature  peoples,  like  the  American  Indian,  built  with 
wood;  the  Iroquois,  for  example,  raised,  out  of  timber  still  bearing  the 
bark,  sprawling  edifices  five  hundred  feet  long,  which  sheltered  many  fami- 
lies. Finally,  the  natives  of  Oceania  made  real  houses  of  carefully  cut  boards, 
and  the  evolution  of  the  wooden  dwelling  was  complete.* 

Only  three  further  developments  were  needed  for  primitive  man  to 
create  all  the  essentials  of  economic  civilization:  the  mechanisms  of  trans- 
port, the  processes  of  trade,  and  the  medium  of  exchange.  The  porter 
carrying  his  load  from  a  modern  plane  pictures  the  earliest  and  latest  stages 
in  the  history  of  transportation.  In  the  beginning,  doubtless,  man  was  his 
own  beast  of  burden,  unless  he  was  married;  to  this  day,  for  the  most  part, 
in  southern  and  eastern  Asia,  man  is  wagon  and  donkey  and  all.  Then  he 
invented  ropes,  levers,  and  pulleys;  he  conquered  and  loaded  the  animal; 
he  made  the  first  sledge  by  having  his  cattle  draw  along  the  ground  long 
branches  bearing  his  goods;*  he  put  logs  as  rollers  under  the  sledge;  he  cut 
cross-sections  of  the  log,  and  made  the  greatest  of  all  mechanical  inven- 
tions, the  wheel;  he  put  wheels  under  the  sledge  and  made  a  cart.  Other 
logs  he  bound  together  as  rafts,  or  dug  into  canoes;  and  the  streams  be- 
came his  most  convenient  avenues  of  transport.  By  land  he  went  first 
through  trackless  fields  and  hills,  then  by  trails,  at  last  by  roads.  He  studied 
the  stars,  and  guided  his  caravans  across  mountains  and  deserts  by  tracing 

*  The  American  Indians,  content  with  this  device,  never  used  the  wheel. 


his  route  in  the  sky.  He  paddled,  rowed  or  sailed  his  way  bravely  from 
island  to  island,  and  at  last  spanned  oceans  to  spread  his  modest  culture 
from  continent  to  continent.  Here,  too,  the  main  problems  were  solved 
before  written  history  began. 

Since  human  skills  and  natural  resources  are  diversely  and  unequally 
distributed,  a  people  may  be  enabled,  by  the  development  of  specific  talents, 
or  by  its  proximity  to  needed  materials,  to  produce  certain  articles  more 
cheaply  than  its  neighbors.  Of  such  articles  it  makes  more  than  it  con- 
sumes, and  offers  its  surplus  to  other  peoples  in  exchange  for  their  own; 
this  is  the  origin  of  trade.  The  Chibcha  Indians  of  Colombia  exported 
the  rock  salt  that  abounded  in  their  territory,  and  received  in  return  the 
cereals  that  could  not  be  raised  on  their  barren  soil.  Certain  American 
Indian  villages  were  almost  entirely  devoted  to  making  arrow-heads;  some 
in  New  Guinea  to  making  pottery;  some  in  Africa  to  blacksmithing,  or  to 
making  boats  or  lances.  Such  specializing  tribes  or  villages  sometimes  ac- 
quired the  names  of  their  industry  (Smith,  Fisher,  Potter  .  .  .  ),  and  these 
names  were  in  time  attached  to  specializing  families.3011  Trade  in  surpluses 
was  at  first  by  an  interchange  of  gifts;  even  in  our  calculating  days  a 
present  (if  only  a  meal)  sometimes  precedes  or  seals  a  trade.  The  ex- 
change was  facilitated  by  war,  robbery,  tribute,  fines,  and  compensation; 
goods  had  to  be  kept  moving!  Gradually  an  orderly  system  of  barter 
grew  up,  and  trading  posts,  markets  and  bazaars  were  established— occa- 
sionally, then  periodically,  then  permanently— where  those  who  had  some 
article  in  excess  might  offer  it  for  some  article  of  need.81 

For  a  long  time  commerce  was  purely  such  exchange,  and  centuries 
passed  before  a  circulating  medium  of  value  was  invented  to  quicken  trade. 
A  Dyak  might  be  seen  wandering  for  days  through  a  bazaar,  with  a  ball  of 
beeswax  in  his  hand,  seeking  a  customer  who  could  offer  him  in  return 
something  that  he  might  more  profitably  use.88  The  earliest  mediums  of 
exchange  were  articles  universally  in  demand,  which  anyone  would  take 
in  payment:  dates,  salt,  skins,  furs,  ornaments,  implements,  weapons;  in 
such  traffic  two  knives  equaled  one  pair  of  stockings,  all  three  equaled 
a  blanket,  all  four  equaled  a  gun,  all  five  equaled  a  horse;  two  elk-teeth 
equaled  one  pony,  and  eight  ponies  equaled  a  wife.88  There  is  hardly  any 
thing  that  has  not  been  employed  as  money  by  some  people  at  some  time: 
beans,  fish-hooks,  shells,  pearls,  beads,  cocoa  seeds,  tea,  pepper,  at  last 
sheep,  pigs,  cows,  and  slaves.  Cattle  were  a  convenient  standard  of  value 
and  medium  of  exchange  among  hunters  and  herders;  they  bore  interest 


through  breeding,  and  they  were  easy  to  carry,  since  they  transported 
themselves.  Even  in  Homer's  days  men  and  things  were  valued  in  terms 
of  cattle:  the  armor  of  Diomedes  was  worth  nine  head  of  cattle,  a  skilful 
slave  was  worth  four.  The  Romans  used  kindred  words— pecus  and 
'pecunia—for  cattle  and  money,  and  placed  the  image  of  an  ox  upon  their 
early  coins.  Our  own  words  capital,  chattel  and  cattle  go  back  through 
the  French  to  the  Latin  capitale,  meaning  property:  and  this  in  turn 
derives  from  caput,  meaning  head— i.e.,  of  cattle.  When  metals  were 
mined  they  slowly  replaced  other  articles  as  standards  of  value;  copper, 
bronze,  iron,  finally—because  of  their  convenient  representation  of  great 
worth  in  little  space  and  weight— silver  and  gold,  became  the  money  of 
mankind.  The  advance  from  token  goods  to  a  metallic  currency  does  not 
seem  to  have  been  made  by  primitive  men;  it  was  left  for  the  historic 
civilizations  to  invent  coinage  and  credit,  and  so,  by  further  facilitating 
the  exchange  of  surpluses,  to  increase  again  the  wealth  and  comfort  of 


Primitive  communism— Causes  of  its  disappearance— Origins  of 
private  property— Slavery— Classes 

Trade  was  the  great  disturber  of  the  primitive  world,  for  until  it  came, 
bringing  money  and  profit  in  its  wake,  there  was  no  property,  and  there- 
fore little  government.  In  the  early  stages  of  economic  development 
property  was  limited  for  the  most  part  to  things  personally  used;  the 
property  sense  applied  so  strongly  to  such  articles  that  they  (even  the 
wife)  were  often  buried  with  their  owner;  it  applied  so  weakly  to  things 
not  personally  used  that  in  their  case  the  sense  of  property,  far  from  being 
innate,  required  perpetual  reinforcement  and  inculcation. 

Almost  everywhere,  among  primitive  peoples,  land  was  owned  by  the 
community.  The  North  American  Indians,  the  natives  of  Peru,  the 
Chittagong  Hill  tribes  of  India,  the  Borneans  and  South  Sea  Islanders  seem 
to  have  owned  and  tilled  the  soil  in  common,  and  to  have  shared  the  fruits 
together.  "The  land,"  said  the  Omaha  Indians,  "is  like  water  and  wind— 
what  cannot  be  sold."  In  Samoa  the  idea  of  selling  land  was  unknown 
prior  to  the  coming  of  the  white  man.  Professor  Rivers  found  communism 
in  land  still  existing  in  Melanesia  and  Polynesia;  and  in  inner  Liberia  it 
may  be  observed  today.36 

Only  less  widespread  was  communism  in  food.    It  was  usual  among 


"savages"  for  the  man  who  had  food  to  share  it  with  the  man  who  had 
none,  for  travelers  to  be  fed  at  any  home  they  chose  to  stop  at  on  their 
way,  and  for  communities  harassed  with  drought  to  be  maintained  by 
their  neighbors.88  If  a  man  sat  down  to  his  meal  in  the  woods  he  was 
expected  to  call  loudly  for  some  one  to  come  and  share  it  with  him,  before 
he  might  justly  eat  alone.87  When  Turner  told  a  Samoan  about  the  poor  in 
London  the  "savage"  asked  in  astonishment:  "How  is  it?  No  food?  No 
friends?  No  house  to  live  in?  Where  did  he  grow?  Are  there  no 
houses  belonging  to  his  friends?"88  The  hungry  Indian  had  but  to  ask  to 
receive;  no  matter  how  small  the  supply  was,  food  was  given  him  if  he 
needed  it;  "no  one  can  want  food  while  there  is  corn  anywhere  in  the 
town."89  Among  the  Hottentots  it  was  the  custom  for  one  who  had  more 
than  others  to  share  his  surplus  till  all  were  equal.  White  travelers  in 
Africa  before  the  advent  of  civilization  noted  that  a  present  of  food  or 
other  valuables  to  a  "black  man"  was  at  once  distributed;  so  that  when 
a  suit  of  clothes  was  given  to  one  of  them  the  donor  soon  found  the 
recipient  wearing  the  hat,  a  friend  the  trousers,  another  friend  the  coat. 
The  Eskimo  hunter  had  no  personal  right  to  his  catch;  it  had  to  be  divided 
among  the  inhabitants  of  the  village,  and  tools  and  provisions  were  the 
common  property  of  all.  The  North  American  Indians  were  described 
by  Captain  Carver  as  "strangers  to  all  distinctions  of  property,  except  in 
the  articles  of  domestic  use.  .  .  .  They  are  extremely  liberal  to  each  other, 
and  supply  the  deficiencies  of  their  friends  with  any  superfluity  of  their 
own."  "What  is  extremely  surprising,"  reports  a  missionary,  "is  to  see 
them  treat  one  another  with  a  gentleness  and  consideration  which  one  does 
not  find  among  common  people  in  the  most  civilized  nations.  This,  doubt- 
less, arises  from  the  fact  that  the  words  'mine'  and  'thine,'  which  St. 
Chrysostom  says  extinguish  in  our  hearts  the  fire  of  charity  and  kindle 
that  of  greed,  are  unknown  to  these  savages."  "I  have  seen  them,"  says 
another  observer,  "divide  game  among  themselves  when  they  sometimes 
had  many  shares  to  make;  and  cannot  recollect  a  single  instance  of  their 
falling  into  a  dispute  or  finding  fault  with  the  distribution  as  being  unequal 
or  otherwise  objectionable.  They  would  rather  lie  down  themselves  on 
an  empty  stomach  than  have  it  laid  to  their  charge  that  they  neglected 
to  satisfy  the  needy.  .  .  .  They  look  upon  themselves  as  but  one  great 

Why  did  this  primitive  communism  disappear  as  men  rose  to  what  we, 
with  some  partiality,  call  civilization?    Sumner  believed  that  communism 


proved  unbiological,  a  handicap  in  the  struggle  for  existence;  that  it  gave 
insufficient  stimulus  to  inventiveness,  industry  and  thrift;  and  that  the 
failure  to  reward  the  more  able,  and  punish  the  less  able,  made  for  a  level- 
ing of  capacity  which  was  hostile  to  growth  or  to  successful  competition 
with  other  groups.41  Loskiel  reported  some  Indian  tribes  of  the  northeast 
as  "so  lazy  that  they  plant  nothing  themselves,  but  rely  entirely  upon  the 
expectation  that  others  will  not  refuse  to  share  their  produce  with  them. 
Since  the  industrious  thus  enjoy  no  more  of  the  fruits  of  their  labor  than 
the  idle,  they  plant  less  every  year."41  Darwin  thought  that  the  perfect 
equality  among  the  Fuegians  was  fatal  to  any  hope  of  their  becoming 
civilized;48  or,  as  the  Fuegians  might  have  put  it,  civilization  would  have 
been  fatal  to  their  equality.  Communism  brought  a  certain  security  to  all 
who  survived  the  diseases  and  accidents  due  to  the  poverty  and  ignorance 
of  primitive  society;  but  it  did  not  lift  them  out  of  that  poverty.  In- 
dividualism brought  wealth,  but  it  brought,  also,  insecurity  and  slavery; 
it  stimulated  the  latent  powers  of  superior  men,  but  it  intensified  the  com- 
petition of  life,  and  made  men  feel  bitterly  a  poverty  which,  when  all 
shared  it  alike,  had  seemed  to  oppress  none.* 

Communism  could  survive  more  easily  in  societies  where  men  were 
always  on  the  move,  and  danger  and  want  were  ever  present.  Hunters 
and  herders  had  no  need  of  private  property  in  land;  but  when  agriculture 
became  the  settled  life  of  men  it  soon  appeared  that  the  land  was  most 
fruitfully  tilled  when  the  rewards  of  careful  husbandry  accrued  to  the 
family  that  had  provided  it.  Consequently—since  there  is  a  natural  selec- 
tion of  institutions  and  ideas  as  well  as  of  organisms  and  groups— the 
passage  from  hunting  to  agriculture  brought  a  change  from  tribal  property 
to  family  property;  the  most  economical  unit  of  production  became  the 

*  Perhaps  one  reason  why  communism  tends  to  appear  chiefly  at  the  beginning  of  civili- 
zations is  that  it  flourishes  most  readily  in  times  of  dearth,  when  the  common  danger  of 
starvation  fuses  the  individual  into  the  group.  When  abundance  comes,  and  the  danger 
subsides,  social  cohesion  is  lessened,  and  individualism  increases;  communism  ends  where 
luxiiry  begins.  As  the  life  of  a  society  becomes  more  complex,  and  the  division  of  labor 
differentiates  men  into  diverse  occupations  and  trades,  it  becomes  more  and  more  unlikely 
that  all  these  services  will  be  equally  valuable  to  the  group;  inevitably  those  whose  greater 
ability  enables  them  to  perform  the  more  vital  functions  will  take  more  than  their  equal 
share  of  the  rising  wealth  of  the  group.  Every  growing  civilization  is  a  scene  of  multiply- 
ing inequalities;  the  natural  differences  of  human  endowment  unite  with  differences  of 
opportunity  to  produce  artificial  differences  of  wealth  and  power;  and  where  no  laws  or 
despots  suppress  these  artificial  inequalities  they  reach  at  last  a  bursting  point  where  the 
poor  have  nothing  to  lose  by  violence,  and  the  chaos  of  revolution  levels  men  again  into  a 
community  of  destitution. 

Hence  the  dream  of  communism  lurks  in  every  modern  society  as  a  racial  memory  of  a 


unit  of  ownership.  As  the  family  took  on  more  and  more  a  patriarchal 
form,  with  authority  centralized  in  the  oldest  male,  property  became 
increasingly  individualized,  and  personal  bequest  arose.  Frequently  an 
enterprising  individual  would  leave  the  family  haven,  adventure  beyond 
the  traditional  boundaries,  and  by  hard  labor  reclaim  land  from  the  forest, 
the  jungle  or  the  marsh;  such  land  he  guarded  jealously  as  his  own,  and 
in  the  end  society  recognized  his  right,  and  another  form  of  individual 
property  began.48*  As  the  pressure  of  population  increased,  and  older 
lands  were  exhausted,  such  reclamation  went  on  in  a  widening  circle,  until, 
in  the  more  complex  societies,  individual  ownership  became  the  order  of 
the  day.  The  invention  of  money  cooperated  with  these  factors  by  facili- 
tating the  accumulation,  transport  and  transmission  of  property.  The 
old  tribal  rights  and  traditions  reasserted  themselves  in  the  technical  owner- 
ship of  the  soil  by  the  village  community  or  the  king,  and  in  periodical 
redistributions  of  the  land;  but  after  an  epoch  of  natural  oscillation  between 
the  old  and  the  new,  private  property  established  itself  definitely  as  the 
basic  economic  institution  of  historical  society. 

Agriculture,  while  generating  civilization,  led  not  only  to  private  prop- 
erty but  to  slavery.  In  purely  hunting  communities  slavery  had  been 
unknown;  the  hunter's  wives  and  children  sufficed  to  do  the  menial  work. 
The  men  alternated  between  the  excited  activity  of  hunting  or  war,  and 
the  exhausted  lassitude  of  satiety  or  peace.  The  characteristic  laziness 
of  primitive  peoples  had  its  origin,  presumably,  in  this  habit  of  slowly  re- 
cuperating from  the  fatigue  of  battle  or  the  chase;  it  was  not  so  much 
laziness  as  rest.  To  transform  this  spasmodic  activity  into  regular  work 
two  things  were  needed:  the  routine  of  tillage,  and  the  organization  of 

Such  organization  remains  loose  and  spontaneous  where  men  are  work- 
ing for  themselves;  where  they  work  for  others,  the  organization  of  labor 

simpler  and  more  equal  life;  and  where  inequality  or  insecurity  rises  beyond  sufferance, 
men  welcome  a  return  to  a  condition  which  they  idealize  by  recalling  its  equality  and 
forgetting  its  poverty.  Periodically  the  land  gets  itself  redistributed,  legally  or  not, 
whether  by  the  Gracchi  in  Rome,  the  Jacobins  in  France,  or  the  Communists  in  Russia; 
periodically  wealth  is  redistributed,  whether  by  the  violent  confiscation  of  property,  or 
by  confiscatory  taxation  of  incomes  and  bequests.  Then  the  race  for  wealth,  goods  and 
power  begins  again,  and  the  pyramid  of  ability  takes  form  once  more;  under  whatever 
laws  may  be  enacted  the  abler  man  manages  somehow  to  get  the  richer  soil,  the  better 
place,  the  lion's  share;  soon  he  is  strong  enough  to  dominate  the  state  and  rewrite  or 
interpret  the  laws;  and  in  time  the  inequality  is  as  great  as  before.  In  this  aspect  all 
economic  history  is  the  slow  heart-beat  of  the  social  organism,  a  vast  systole  and  diastole 
of  naturally  concentrating  wealth  and  naturally  explosive  revolution. 



depends  in  the  last  analysis  upon  force.  The  rise  of  agriculture  and  the 
inequality  of  men  led  to  the  employment  of  the  socially  weak  by  the 
socially  strong;  not  till  then  did  it  occur  to  the  victor  in  war  that  the  only 
good  prisoner  is  a  live  one.  Butchery  and  cannibalism  lessened,  slavery 
grew.44  It  was  a  great  moral  improvement  when  men  ceased  to  kill  or 
eat  their  fellowmen,  and  merely  made  them  slaves.  A  similar  develop- 
ment on  a  larger  scale  may  be  seen  today,  when  a  nation  victorious  in  war 
no  longer  exterminates  the  enemy,  but  enslaves  it  with  indemnities.  Once 
slavery  had  been  established  and  had  proved  profitable,  it  was  extended 
by  condemning  to  it  defaulting  debtors  and  obstinate  criminals,  and  by 
raids  undertaken  specifically  to  capture  slaves.  War  helped  to  make 
slavery,  and  slavery  helped  to  make  war. 

Probably  it  was  through  centuries  of  slavery  that  our  race  acquired 
its  traditions  and  habits  of  toil.  No  one  would  do  any  hard  or  persistent 
work  if  he  could  avoid  it  without  physical,  economic  or  social  penalty. 
Slavery  became  part  of  the  discipline  by  which  man  was  prepared  for 
industry.  Indirectly  it  furthered  civilization,  in  so  far  as  it  increased 
wealth  and—for  a  minority— created  leisure.  After  some  centuries  men 
took  it  for  granted;  Aristotle  argued  for  slavery  as  natural  and  inevitable, 
and  St.  Paul  gave  his  benediction  to  what  must  have  seemed,  by  his  time, 
a  divinely  ordained  institution. 

Gradually,  through  agriculture  and  slavery,  through  the  division  of 
labor  and  the  inherent  diversity  of  men,  the  comparative  equality  of 
natural  society  was  replaced  by  inequality  and  class  divisions.  "In  the 
primitive  group  we  find  as  a  rule  no  distinction  between  slave  and  free, 
no  serfdom,  no  caste,  and  little  if  any  distinction  between  chief  and 
followers."45  Slowly  the  increasing  complexity  of  tools  and  trades  sub- 
jected the  unskilled  or  weak  to  the  skilled  or  strong;  every  invention  was 
a  new  weapon  in  the  hands  of  the  strong,  and  further  strengthened  them 
in  their  mastery  and  use  of  the  weak.*  Inheritance  added  superior  oppor- 
tunity to  superior  possessions,  and  stratified  once  homogeneous  societies 
into  a  maze  of  classes  and  castes.  Rich  and  poor  became  disruptively 
conscious  of  wealth  and  poverty;  the  class  war  began  to  run  as  a  red 
thread  through  all  history;  and  the  state  arose  as  an  indispensable  instru- 
ment for  the  regulation  of  classes,  the  protection  of  property,  the  waging 
of  war,  and  the  organization  of  peace. 

*  So  in  our  time  that  Mississippi  of  inventions  which  we  call  the  Industrial  Revolution 
has  enormously  intensified  the  natural  inequality  of  men. 


The  Political  Elements  of  Civilization 


The  unsocial  instinct— Primitive  anarchism— The  clan  and  the 
tribe— The  king— War 

MAN  is  not  willingly  a  political  animal.  The  human  male  associates 
with  his  fellows  less  by  desire  than  by  habit,  imitation,  and  the 
compulsion  of  circumstance;  he  does  not  love  society  so  much  as  he 
fears  solitude.  He  combines  with  other  men  because  isolation  endangers 
him,  and  because  there  are  many  things  that  can  be  done  better  together 
than  alone;  in  his  heart  he  is  a  solitary  individual,  pitted  heroically  against^ 
the  world.  If  the  average  man  had  had  his  way  there  would  probably 
never  have  been  any  state.  Even  today  he  resents  it,  classes  death  with 
taxes,  and  yearns  for  that  government  which  governs  least.  If  he  asks 
for  many  laws  it  is  only  because  he  is  sure  that  his  neighbor  needs  them; 
privately  he  is  an  unphilosophical  anarchist,  and  thinks  laws  in  his  own 
case  superfluous. 

In  the  simplest  societies  there  is  hardly  any  government.  Primitive 
hunters  tend  to  accept  regulation  only  when  they  join  the  hunting  pack 
and  prepare  for  action.  The  Bushmen  usually  live  in  solitary  families; 
the  Pygmies  of  Africa  and  the  simplest  natives  of  Australia  admit  only 
temporarily  of  political  organization,  and  then  scatter  away  to  their 
family  groups;  the  Tasmanians  had  no  chiefs,  no  laws,  no  regular  govern- 
ment; the  Veddahs  of  Ceylon  formed  small  circles  according  to  family 
relationship,  but  had  no  government;  the  Kubus  of  Sumatra  "live  without 
men  in  authority,"  every  family  governing  itself;  the  Fuegians  are  seldom 
more  than  twelve  together;  the  Tungus  associate  sparingly  in  groups  of 
ten  tents  or  so;  the  Australian  "horde"  is  seldom  larger  than  sixty  souls.1 
In  such  cases  association  and  cooperation  are  for  special  purposes,  like 
hunting;  they  do  not  rise  to  any  permanent  political  order. 

The  earliest  form  of  continuous  social  organization  was  the  clan— a  group 
of  related  families  occupying  a  common  tract  of  land,  having  the  same 



totem,  and  governed  by  the  same  customs  or  laws.  When  a  group  of  clans 
united  under  the  same  chief  the  tribe  was  formed,  and  became  the  second 
step  on  the  way  to  the  state.  But  this  was  a  slow  development;  many 
groups  had  no  chiefs  at  all/  and  many  more  seem  to  have  tolerated  them 
only  in  time  of  war.*  Instead  of  democracy  being  a  wilted  feather  in  the 
cap  of  our  own  age,  it  appears  at  its  best  in  several  primitive  groups  where 
such  government  as  exists  is  merely  the  rule  of  the  family-heads  of  the 
clan,  and  no  arbitrary  authority  is  allowed.4  The  Iroquois  and  Delaware 
Indians  recognized  no  laws  or  restraints  beyond  the  natural  order  of  the 
family  and  the  clan;  their  chiefs  had  modest  powers,  which  might  at  any 
time  be  ended  by  the  elders  of  the  tribe.  The  Omaha  Indians  were  ruled 
by  a  Council  of  Seven,  who  deliberated  until  they  came  to  a  unanimous 
agreement;  add  this  to  the  famous  League  of  the  Iroquois,  by  which  many 
tribes  bound  themselves— and  honored  their  pledge— to  keep  the  peace, 
and  one  sees  no  great  gap  between  these  "savages"  and  the  modern  states 
that  bind  themselves  revocably  to  peace  in  the  League  of  Nations. 

It  is  war  that  makes  the  chief,  the  king  and  the  state,  just  as  it  is  these 
that  make  war.  In  Samoa  the  chief  had  power  during  war,  but  at  other 
times  no  one  paid  much  attention  to  him.  The  Dyaks  had  no  other 
government  than  that  of  each  family  by  its  head;  in  case  of  strife  they 
chose  their  bravest  warrior  to  lead  them,  and  obeyed  him  strictly;  but 
once  the  conflict  was  ended  they  literally  sent  him  about  his  business.8 
In  the  intervals  of  peace  it  was  the  priest,  or  head  magician,  who  had  most 
authority  and  influence;  and  when  at  last  a  permanent  kingship  developed 
as  the  usual  mode  of  government  among  a  majority  of  tribes,  it  combined— 
and  derived  from— the  offices  of  warrior,  father  and  priest.  Societies  arc 
ruled  by  two  powers:  in  peace  by  the  word,  in  crises  by  the  sword;  force 
is  used  only  when  indoctrination  fails.  Law  and  myth  have  gone  hand  in 
Hand  throughout  the  centuries,  cooperating  or  taking  turns  in  the  manage- 
ment of  mankind;  until  our  own  day  no  state  dared  separate  them,  and 
perhaps  tomorrow  they  will  be  united  again. 

How  did  war  lead  to  the  state?  It  is  not  that  men  were  naturally  in- 
clined to  war.  Some  lowly  peoples  are  quite  peaceful;  and  the  Eskimos 
could  not  understand  why  Europeans  of  the  same  pacific  faith  should  hunt 
one  another  like  seals  and  steal  one  another's  land.  "How  well  it  is"— 
they  apostrophized  their  soil— "that  you  are  covered  with  ice  and  snow! 
How  well  it  is  that  if  in  your  rocks  there  are  gold  and  silver,  for  which 
the  Christians  are  so  greedy,  it  is  covered  with  so  much  snow  that  they 


cannot  get  at  it!  Your  unfruitfulness  makes  us  happy,  and  saves  us  from 
molestation."'  Nevertheless,  primitive  life  was  incarnadined  with  inter- 
mittent war.  Hunters  fought  for 'happy  hunting  grounds  still  rich  in 
prey,  herders  fought  for  new  pastures  for  their  flocks,  tillers  fought  for 
virgin  soil;  all  of  them,  at  times,  fought  to  avenge  a  murder,  or  to  harden 
and  discipline  their  youth,  or  to  interrupt  the  monotony  of  life,  or  for 
simple  plunder  and  rape;  very  rarely  for  religion.  There  were  institutions 
and  customs  for  the  limitation  of  slaughter,  as  among  ourselves— certain 
hours,  days,  weeks  or  months  during  which  no  gentleman  savage  would 
kill;  certain  functionaries  who  were  inviolable,  certain  roads  neutralized, 
certain  markets  and  asylums  set  aside  for  peace;  and  the  League  of  the 
Iroquois  maintained  the  "Great  Peace"  for  three  hundred  years/  But 
for  the  most  part  war  was  the  favorite  instrument  of  natural  selection 
among  primitive  nations  and  groups. 

Its  results  were  endless.  It  acted  as  a  ruthless  eliminator  of  weak  peoples, 
and  raised  the  level  of  the  race  in  courage,  violence,  cruelty,  intelligence 
and  skill.  It  stimulated  invention,  made  weapons  that  became  useful  tools, 
and  arts  of  war  that  became  arts  of  peace.  (How  many  railroads  today 
begin  in  strategy  and  end  in  trade!)  Above  all,  war  dissolved  primitive 
communism  and  anarchism,  introduced  organization  and  discipline,  and 
led  to  the  enslavement  of  prisoners,  the  subordination  of  classes,  and  the 
growth  of  government.  Property  was  the  mother,  war  was  the  father, 
of  the  state.  * 


As  the  organization  of  force—The  village  community—The 
psychological  aides  of  the  state 

"A  herd  of  blonde  beasts  of  prey,"  says  Nietzsche,  "a  race  of  con- 
querors and  masters,  which  with  all  its  warlike  organization  and  all  its 
organizing  power  pounces  with  its  terrible  claws  upon  a  population,  in 
numbers  possibly  tremendously  superior,  but  as  yet  formless,  .  .  .  such 
is  the  origin  of  the  state."8  "The  state  as  distinct  from  tribal  organization," 
says  Lester  Ward,  "begins  with  the  conquest  of  one  race  by  another."* 
"Everywhere,"  says  Oppenheimer,  "we  find  some  warlike  tribe  breaking 
through  the  boundaries  of  some  less  warlike  people,  settling  down  as 
nobility,  and  founding  its  state."10  "Violence,"  says  Ratzenhofer,  "is  the 
agent  which  has  created  the  state."11  The  state,  says  Gumplowicz,  is 
the  result  of  conquest,  the  establishment  of  the  victors  as  a  ruling  caste 


over  the  vanquished."    "The  state,"  says  Sumner,  "is  the  product  of 
force,  and  exists  by  force."1* 

This  violent  subjection  is  usually  of  a  settled  agricultural  group  by  a 
tribe  of  hunters  and  herders.14  For  agriculture  teaches  men  pacific  ways, 
inures  them  to  a  prosaic  routine,  and  exhausts  them  with  the  long  day's 
toil;  such  men  accumulate  wealth,  but  they  forget  the  arts  and  sentiments 
of  war.  The  hunter  and  the  herder,  accustomed  to  danger  and  skilled 
in  killing,  look  upon  war  as  but  another  form  of  the  chase,  and  hardly 
more  perilous;  when  the  woods  cease  to  give  them  abundant  game,  or 
flocks  decrease  through  a  thinning  pasture,  they  look  with  envy  upon  the 
ripe  fields  of  the  village,  they  invent  with  modern  ease  some  plausible 
reason  for  attack,  they  invade,  conquer,  enslave  and  rule.* 

The  state  is  a  late  development,  and  hardly  appears  before  the  time  of 
written  history.  For  it  presupposes  a  change  in  the  very  principle  of  social 
organization— from  kinship  to  domination;  and  in  primitive  societies  the 
former  is  the  rule.  Domination  succeeds  best  where  it  binds  diverse  natural 
groups  into  an  advantageous  unity  of  order  and  trade.  Even  such  conquest 
is  seldom  lasting  except  where  the  progress  of  invention  has  strengthened 
the  strong  by  putting  into  their  hands  new  tools  and  weapons  for  suppress- 
ing revolt.  In  permanent  conquest  the  principle  of  domination  tends  to  be- 
come concealed  and  almost  unconscious;  the  French  who  rebelled  in  1789 
hardly  realized,  until  Camille  Desmoulins  reminded  them,  that  the  aris- 
tocracy that  had  ruled  them  for  a  thousand  years  had  come  from  Germany 
and  had  subjugated  them  by  force.  Time  sanctifies  everything;  even  the 
most  arrant  theft,  in  the  hands  of  the  robber's  grandchildren,  becomes  sacred 
and  inviolable  property.  Every  state  begins  in  compulsion;  but  the  habits 
of  obedience  become  the  content  of  conscience,  and  soon  every  citizen 
thrills  with  loyalty  to  the  flag. 

The  citizen  is  right;  for  however  the  state  begins,  it  soon  becomes  an  in- 
dispensable prop  to  order.  As  trade  unites  clans  and  tribes,  relations  spring 
up  that  depend  not  on  kinship  but  on  contiguity,  and  therefore  require  an 
artificial  principle  of  regulation.  The  village  community  may  serve  as  an 
example:  it  displaced  tribe  and  clan  as  the  mode  of  local  organization,  and 

•  It  is  a  law  that  holds  only  for  early  societies,  since  under  more  complex  conditions  a 
variety  of  other  factors— greater  wealth,  better  weapons,  higher  intelligence—contribute  to 
determine  the  issue.  So  Egypt  was  conquered  not  only  by  Hyksos,  Ethiopian,  Arab  and 
Turkish  nomads,  but  also  by  the  settled  civilizations  of  Assyria,  Persia,  Greece,  Rome  and 
England— though  not  until  these  nations  had  become  hunters  and  nomads  on  an  imperial- 
istic scale. 


achieved  a  simple,  almost  democratic  government  of  small  areas  through  a 
concourse  of  family-heads;  but  the  very  existence  and  number  of  such  com- 
munities created  a  need  for  some  external  force  that  could  regulate  their 
interrelations  and  weave  them  into  a  larger  economic  web.  The  state,  ogre 
though  it  was  in  its  origin,  supplied  this  need;  it  became  not  merely  an  or- 
ganized force,  but  an  instrument  for  adjusting  the  interests  of  the  thousand 
conflicting  groups  that  constitute  a  complex  society.  It  spread  the  tentacles  of 
its  power  and  law  over  wider  and  wider  areas,  and  though  it  made  external 
war  more  destructive  than  before,  it  extended  and  maintained  internal  peace; 
the  state  may  be  defined  as  internal  peace  for  external  war.  Men  decided 
that  it  was  better  to  pay  taxes  than  to  fight  among  themselves;  better  to  pay 
tribute  to  one  magnificent  robber  than  to  bribe  them  all.  What  an  inter- 
regnum meant  to  a  society  accustomed  to  government  may  be  judged  from 
the  behavior  of  the  Baganda,  among  whom,  when  the  king  died,  every  man 
had  to  arm  himself;  for  the  lawless  ran  riot,  killing  and  plundering  every- 
where.15 "Without  autocratic  rule,"  as  Spencer  said,  "the  evolution  of  so- 
ciety could  not  have  commenced."1* 

A  state  which  should  rely  upon  force  alone  would  soon  fall,  for  though 
men  are  naturally  gullible  they  are  also  naturally  obstinate,  and  power, 
like  taxes,  succeeds  best  when  it  is  invisible  and  indirect.  Hence  the  state, 
in  order  to  maintain  itself,  used  and  forged  many  instruments  of  in- 
doctrination—the family,  the  church,  the  school— to  build  in  the  soul  of 
the  citizen  a  habit  of  patriotic  loyalty  and  pride.  This  saved  a  thousand 
policemen,  and  prepared  the  public  mind  for  that  docile  coherence  which 
is  indispensable  in  war.  Above  all,  the  ruling  minority  sought  more  and 
more  to  transform  its  forcible  mastery  into  a  body  of  law  which,  while 
consolidating  that  mastery,  would  afford  a  welcome  security  and  order 
to  the  people,  and  would  recognize  the  rights  of  the  "subject"*  sufficiently 
to  win  his  acceptance  of  the  law  and  his  adherence  to  the  State. 

ra.    LAW 

Larw-lessness—Laiv  and  custom— Revenge— Fines—Courts— Ordeal 
—The  duel— Punishment— Primitive  freedom 

Law  comes  with  property,  marriage  and  government;  the  lowest  societies 
manage  to  get  along  without  it.  "I  have  lived  with  communities  of  savages 
in  South  America  and  in  the  East,"  said  Alfred  Russel  Wallace,  "who 

*  Note  how  this  word  betrays  the  origin  of  the  state. 


have  no  law  or  law-courts  but  the  public  opinion  of  the  village  freely 
expressed.  Each  man  scrupulously  respects  the  rights  of  his  fellows,  and 
any  infraction  of  those  rights  rarely  or  never  takes  place.  In  such  a  com- 
munity all  are  nearly  equal."17  Herman  Melville  writes  similarly  of  the 
Marquesas  Islanders:  "During  the  time  I  have  lived  among  the  Typees 
no  one  was  ever  put  upon  his  trial  for  any  violence  to  the  public.  Every- 
thing went  on  in  the  valley  with  a  harmony  and  smoothness  unparalleled, 
I  will  venture  to  assert,  in  the  most  select,  refined,  and  pious  associations1 
of  mortals  in  Christendom."11  The  old  Russian  Government  established 
courts  of  law  in  the  Aleutian  Islands,  but  in  fifty  years  those  courts  found 
no  employment.  "Crime  and  offenses,"  reports  Brinton,  "were  so  infre- 
quent under  the  social  system  of  the  Iroquois  that  they  can  scarcely  be 
said  to  have  had  a  penal  code."1*  Such  are  the  ideal— perhaps  the  idealized— 
conditions  for  whose  return  the  anarchist  perennially  pines. 

Certain  amendments  must  be  made  to  these  descriptions.  Natural  socie- 
ties arc  comparatively  free  from  law  first  because  they  are  ruled  by  cus- 
toms as  rigid  and  inviolable  as  any  law;  and  secondly  because  crimes  of 
violence,  in  the  beginning,  are  considered  to  be  private  matters,  and  are  left 
to  bloody  personal  revenge. 

Underneath  all  the  phenomena  of  society  is  the  great  terra  firma  of  cus- 
tom, that  bedrock  of  time-hallowed  modes  of  thought  and  action  which 
provides  a  society  with  some  measure  of  steadiness  and  order  through  all 
absence,  changes,  and  interruptions  of  law.  Custom  gives  the  same  stability 
to  the  group  that  heredity  and  instinct  give  to  the  species,  and  habit  to  the 
individual.  It  is  the  routine  that  keeps  men  sane;  for  if  there  were  no  grooves 
along  which  thought  and  action  might  move  with  unconscious  ease,  the 
mind  would  be  perpetually  hesitant,  and  would  soon  take  refuge  in  lunacy. 
A  law  of  economy  works  in  instinct  and  habit,  in  custom  and  convention: 
the  most  convenient  mode  of  response  to  repeated  stimuli  or  traditional  sit- 
uations is  automatic  response.  Thought  and  innovation  are  disturbances  of 
regularity,  and  are  tolerated  only  for  indispensable  readaptations,  or 
promised  gold. 

When  to  this  natural  basis  of  custom  a  supernatural  sanction  is  added  by 
religion,  and  the  ways  of  one's  ancestors  are  also  the  will  of  the  gods,  then 
custom  becomes  stronger  than  law,  and  subtracts  substantially  from  primi- 
tive freedom.  To  violate  law  is  to  win  the  admiration  of  half  the  populace, 
who  secretly  envy  anyone  who  can  outwit  this  ancient  enemy;  to  violate 
custom  is  to  incur  almost  universal  hostility.  For  custom  rises  out  of  the 
people,  whereas  law  is  forced  upon  them  from  above;  law  is  usually  a  de- 


cree  of  the  master,  but  custom  is  the  natural  selection  of  those  modes  of 
action  that  have  been  found  most  convenient  in  the  experience  of  the  group. 
Law  partly  replaces  custom  when  the  state  replaces  the  natural  order  of  the 
family,  the  clan,  the  tribe,  and  the  village  community;  it  more  fully  replaces 
custom  when  writing  appears,  and  laws  graduate   from  a  code   carried 
down  in  the  memory  of  elders  and  priests  into  a  system  of  legislation  pro- 
claimed in  written  tables.    But  the  replacement  is  never  complete;  in  the! 
determination  and  judgment  of  human  conduct  custom  remains  to  the  endj 
the  force  behind  the  law,  the  power  behind  the  throne,  the  last  "magis-| 
trate  of  men's  lives." 

The  first  stage  in  the  evolution  of  law  is  personal  revenge.  "Vengeance 
is  mine,"  says  the  primitive  individual;  "I  will  repay."  Among  the  Indian 
tribes  of  Lower  California  every  man  was  his  own  policeman,  and  admin- 
istered justice  in  the  form  of  such  vengeance  as  he  was  strong  enough 
to  take.  So  in  many  early  societies  the  murder  of  A  by  B  led  to  the 
murder  of  B  by  A's  son  or  friend  C,  the  murder  of  C  by  B's  son  or  friend 
D,  and  so  on  perhaps  to  the  end  of  the  alphabet;  we  may  find  examples 
among  the  purest-blooded  American  families  of  today.  This  principle  of 
revenge  persists  throughout  the  history  of  law:  it  appears  in  the  Lex 
Talionis*—or  Law  of  Retaliation— embodied  in  Roman  Law;  it  plays  a 
large  role  in  the  Code  of  Hammurabi,  and  in  the  "Mosaic"  demand  of 
"an  eye  for  an  eye  and  a  tooth  for  a  tooth";  and  it  lurks  behind  most  legal 
punishments  even  in  our  day. 

The  second  step  toward  law  and  civilization  in  the  treatment  of  crime 
was  the  substitution  of  damages  for  revenge.  Very  often  the  chief,  to 
maintain  internal  harmony,  used  his  power  or  influence  to  have  the  re- 
vengeful family  content  itself  with  gold  or  goods  instead  of  blood.  Soon 
a  regular  tariff  arose,  determining  how  much  must  be  paid  for  an  eye, 
a  tooth,  an  arm,  or  a  life;  Hammurabi  legislated  extensively  in  such  terms. 
The  Abyssinians  were  so  meticulous  in  this  regard  that  when  a  boy  fell 
from  a  tree  upon  his  companion  and  killed  him,  the  judges  decided  that* 
the  bereaved  mother  should  send  another  of  her  sons  into  the  tree  to 
fall  upon  the  culprit's  neck."  The  penalties  assessed  in  cases  of  composi- 
tion might  vary  with  the  sex,  age  and  rank  of  the  offender  and  the  injured; 
among  the  Fijians,  for  example,  petty  larceny  by  a  common  man  was  con- 
sidered a  more  heinous  crime  than  murder  by  a  chief.*1  Throughout  the 

•  A  phrase  apparently  invented  by  Qcero. 


history  of  law  the  magnitude  of  the  crime  has  been  lessened  by  the  magni- 
tude of  the  criminal.*  Since  these  fines  or  compositions,  paid  to  avert 
revenge,  required  some  adjudication  of  offenses  and  damages,  a  third  step 
towards  law  was  taken  by  the  formation  of  courts;  the  chief  or  the  elders 
or  the  priests  sat  in  judgment  to  settle  the  conflicts  of  their  people.  Such 
courts  were  not  always  judgment  seats;  often  they  were  boards  of  volun- 
tary conciliation,  which  arranged  some  amicable  settlement  of  the  dis- 
pute, t  For  many  centuries,  and  among  many  peoples,  resort  to  courts 
remained  optional;  and  where  the  offended  party  was  dissatisfied  with 
the  judgment  rendered,  he  was  still  free  to  seek  personal  revenge.89 

In  many  cases  disputes  were  settled  by  a  public  contest  between  the 
parties,  varying  in  bloodiness  from  a  harmless  boxing-match— as  among  the 
wise  Eskimos— to  a  duel  to  the  death.  Frequently  the  primitive  mind  re- 
sorted to  an  ordeal  not  so  much  on  the  medieval  theory  that  a  deity  would 
reveal  the  culprit  as  in  the  hope  that  the  ordeal,  however  unjust,  would 
end  a  feud  that  might  otherwise  embroil  the  tribe  for  generations.  Some- 
times accuser  and  accused  were  asked  to  choose  between  two  bowls  of 
food  of  which  one  was  poisoned;  the  wrong  party  might  be  poisoned 
(usually  not  beyond  redemption),  but  then  the  dispute  was  ended,  since 
both  parties  ordinarily  believed  in  the  righteousness  of  the  ordeal.  Among 
some  tribes  it  was  the  custom  for  a  native  who  acknowledged  his  guilt 
to  hold  out  his  leg  and  permit  the  injured  party  to  pierce  it  with  a  spear. 
Or  the  accused  submitted  to  having  spears  thrown  at  him  by  his  accusers; 
if  they  all  missed  him  he  was  declared  innocent;  if  he  was  hit,  even  by  one, 
he  was  adjudged  guilty,  and  the  affair  was  closed."  From  such  early 
forms  the  ordeal  persisted  through  the  laws  of  Moses  and  Hammurabi  and 
down  into  the  Middle  Ages;  the  duel,  which  is  one  form  of  the  ordeal,  and 
which  historians  thought  dead,  is  being  revived  in  our  own  day.  So  brief 
and  narrow,  in  some  respects,  is  the  span  between  primitive  and  modern 
man;  so  short  is  the  history  of  civilization. 

The  fourth  advance  in  the  growth  of  law  was  the  assumption,  by  the 
chief  or  the  state,  of  the  obligation  to  prevent  and  punish  wrongs.  It  is 
but  a  step  from  settling  disputes  and  punishing  offenses  to  making  some 

*  Perhaps  an  exception  should  be  made  in  the  case  of  the  Brahmans,  who,  by  the  Code 
of  Manu  (VIII,  336-8),  were  called  upon  to  bear  greater  punishments  for  the  same  crime 
than  members  of  lower  castes;  but  this  regulation  was  well  honored  in  the  breach. 

tSome  of  our  most  modern  cities  are  trying  to  revive  this  ancient  time-saving  institu- 


effort  to  prevent  them.  So  the  chief  becomes  not  merely  a  judge  but  a 
lawgiver;  and  to  the  general  body  of  "common  law"  derived  from  the 
customs  of  the  group  is  added  a  body  of  "positive  law,"  derived  from  the 
decrees  of  the  government;  in  the  one  case  the  laws  grow  up,  in  the  other 
they  are  handed  down.  In  either  case  the  laws  carry  with  them  the  mark 
of  their  ancestry,  and  reek  with  the  vengeance  which  they  tried  to  replace. 
Primitive  punishments  are  cruel,114  because  primitive  society  feels  insecure; 
as  social  organization  becomes  more  stable,  punishments  become  less  severe. 
In  general  the  individual  has  fewer  "rights"  in  natural  society  than 
under  civilization.  Everywhere  man  is  born  in  chains:  the  chains  of 
heredity,  of  environment,  of  custom,  and  of  law.  The  primitive  in- 
dividual moves  always  within  a  web  of  regulations  incredibly  stringent  and 
detailed;  a  thousand  tabus  restrict  his  action,  a  thousand  terrors  limit  his 
will.  The  natives  of  New  Zealand  were  apparently  without  laws,  but 
in  actual  fact  rigid  custom  ruled  every  aspect  of  their  lives.  Unchangeable 
and  unquestionable  conventions  determined  the  sitting  and  the  rising,  the 
standing  and  the  walking,  the  eating,  drinking  and  sleeping  of  the  natives 
of  Bengal.  The  individual  was  hardly  recognized  as  a  separate  entity  in 
natural  society;  what  existed  was  the  family  and  the  clan,  the  tribe  and 
the  village  community;  it  was  these  that  owned  land  and  exercised  power. 
Only  with  the  coming  of  private  property,  which  gave  him  economic 
authority,  and  of  the  state,  which  gave  him  a  legal  status  and  defined 
rights,  did  the  individual  begin  to  stand  out  as  a  distinct  reality."  Rights? 
do  not  come  to  us  from  nature,  which  knows  no  rights  except  cunning 
and  strength;  they  are  privileges  assured  to  individuals  by  the  community 
as  advantageous  to  the  common  good.  Liberty  is  a  luxury  of  security; 
the  free  individual  is  a  product  and  a  mark  of  civilization. 


Its  function  in  civilization—The  clan  vs.  the  family— Growth  of 
parental  care— Unimportance  of  the  father— Separation  of  the 
sexes— Mother-right— Status  of  woman— Her  occupa- 
tions —  Her  economic  achievements  —  The  patri- 
archate—The subjection  of  woman 

As  the  basic  needs  of  man  are  hunger  and  love,  so  the  fundamental  func- 
tions of  social  organization  are  economic  provision  and  biological  main- 
tenance; a  stream  of  children  is  as  vital  as  a  continuity  of  food.  To  insti- 


tutions  which  seek  material  welfare  and  political  order,  society  always 
adds  institutions  for  the  perpetuation  of  the  race.  Until  the  state— towards 
the  dawn  of  the  historic  civilizations— becomes  the  central  and  permanent 
source  of  social  -order,  the  clan  undertakes  the  delicate  task  of  regulating 
the  relations  between  the  sexes  and  between  the  generations;  and  even 
after  the  state  has  been  established,  the  essential  government  of  mankind 
remains  in  that  most  deep-rooted  of  all  historic  institutions,  the  family. 

It  is  highly  improbable  that  the  first  human  beings  lived  in  isolated  fami- 
lies, even  in  the  hunting  stage;  for  the  inferiority  of  man  in  physiological 
organs  of  defense  would  have  left  such  families  a  prey  to  marauding  beasts. 
Usually,  in  nature,  those  organisms  that  are  poorly  equipped  for  individual 
defense  live  in  groups,  and  find  in  united  action  a  means  of  survival  in  a 
world  bristling  with  tusks  and  claws  and  impenetrable  hides.  Presumably  it 
was  so  with  man;  he  saved  himself  by  solidarity  in  the  hunting-pack  and 
the  clan.  When  economic  relations  and  political  mastery  replaced  kinship 
as  the  principle  of  social  organization,  the  clan  lost  its  position  as  die  sub- 
structure of  society;  at  the  bottom  it  was  supplanted  by  the  family,  at  the 
top  it  was  superseded  by  the  state.  Government  took  over  the  problem  of 
maintaining  order,  while  the  family  assumed  the  tasks  of  reorganizing  indus- 
try and  carrying  on  the  race. 

Among  the  lower  animals  there  is  no  care  of  progeny;  consequently 
eggs  are  spawned  in  great  number,  and  some  survive  and  develop  while 
the  great  majority  are  eaten  or  destroyed.  Most  fish  lay  a  million  eggs 
per  year;  a  few  species  of  fish  show  a  modest  solicitude  for  their  offspring, 
and  find  half  a  hundred  eggs  per  year  sufficient  for  their  purposes.  Birds 
care  better  for  their  young,  and  hatch  from  five  to  twelve  eggs  yearly; 
mammals,  whose  very  name  suggests  parental  care,  master  the  earth  with 
an  average  of  three  young  per  female  per  year."  Throughout  the  animal 
world  fertility  and  destruction  decrease  as  parental  care  increases;  through- 
out the  human  world  the  birth  rate  and  the  death  rate  fall  together  as 
civilization  rises.  Better  family  care  makes  possible  a  longer  adolescence, 
in  which  the  young  receive  fuller  training  and 'development  before  they 
are  flung  upon  their  own  resources;  and  the  lowered  birth  rate  releases 
human  energy  for  other  activities  than  reproduction. 

Since  it  was  the  mother  who  fulfilled  most  of  the  parental  functions, 
the  family  was  at  first  (so  far  as  we  can  pierce  the  mists  of  history)  organ- 
ized on  the  assumption  that  the  position  of  the  man  in  the  family  was 


superficial  and  incidental,  while  that  of  the  woman  was  fundamental  and 
supreme.  In  some  existing  tribes,  and  probably  in  the  earliest  human 
groups  the  physiological  role  of  the  male  in  reproduction  appears  to  have 
escaped  notice  quite  as  completely  as  among  animals,  who  rut  and  mate 
and  breed  with  happy  unconsciousness  of  cause  and  effect.  The  Trobriand 
Islanders  attribute  pregnancy  not  to  any  commerce  of  the  sexes,  but  to 
the  entrance  of  a  baloma^  or  ghost,  into  the  woman.  Usually  the  ghost 
enters  while  the  woman  is  bathing;  "a  fish  has  bitten  me,"  the  girl  reports. 
"When,"  says  Malinowski,  "I  asked  who  was  the  father  of  an  illegitimate 
child,  there  was  only  one  answer— that  there  was  no  father,  since  the  girl 
was  unmarried.  If,  then,  I  asked,  in  quite  plain  terms,  who  was  the 
physiological  father,  the  question  was  not  understood.  .  .  .  The  answer 
would  be:  'It  is  a  baloma  who  gave  her  this  child.'  "  These  islanders  had 
a  strange  belief  that  the  baloma  would  more  readily  enter  a  girl  given  to 
loose  relations  with  men;  nevertheless,  in  choosing  precautions  against 
pregnancy,  the  girls  preferred  to  avoid  bathing  at  high  tide  rather  than  to 
forego  relations  with  men."7  It  is  a  delightful  story,  which  must  have 
proved  a  great  convenience  in  the  embarrassing  aftermath  of  generosity; 
it  would  be  still  more  delightful  if  it  had  been  invented  for  anthropologists 
as  well  as  for  husbands. 

In  Melanesia  intercourse  was  recognized  as  the  cause  of  pregnancy,  but 
unmarried  girls  insisted  on  blaming  some  article  in  their  diet."  Even 
where  the  function  of  the  male  was  understood,  sex  relationships  were  so 
irregular  that  it  was  never  a  simple  matter  to  determine  the  father.  Con- 
sequently the  quite  primitive  mother  seldom  bothered  to  inquire  into  the 
paternity  of  her  child;  it  belonged  to  her,  and  she  belonged  not  to  a  hus1- 
band  but  to  her  father— or  her  brother— and  the  clan;  it  was  with  these 
that  she  remained,  and  these  were  the  only  male  relatives  whom  her  child 
would  know."  The  bonds  of  affection  between  brother  and  sister  were 
usually  stronger  than  between  husband  and  wife.  The  husband,  in  many 
cases,  remained  in  the  family  and  clan  of  his  mother,  and  saw  his  wife 
only  as  a  clandestine  visitor.  Even  in  classical  civilization  the  brother  was 
dearer  than  the  husband:  it  was  her  brother,  not  her  husband,  that  the 
wife  of  Intaphernes  saved  from  the  wrath  of  Darius;  it  was  for  her  brother, 
not  for  her  husband,  that  Antigone  sacrificed  herself.80  "The  notion  that 
a  man's  wife  is  the  nearest  person  in  the  world  to  him  is  a  relatively  modern 
notion,  and  one  which  is  restricted  to  a  comparatively  small  part  of  the 
human  race."81 


So  slight  is  the  relation  between  father  and  children  in  primitive  society 
that  in  a  great  number  of  tribes  the  sexes  live  apart.  In  Australia  and 
British  New  Guinea,  in  Africa  and  Micronesia,  in  Assam  and  Burma, 
among  the  Aleuts,  Eskimos  and  Samoyeds,  and  here  and  there  over  the 
earth,  tribes  may  still  be  found  in  which  there  is  no  visible  family  life;  the 
men  live  apart  from  the  women,  and  visit  them  only  now  and  then;  even 
the  meals  are  taken  separately.  In  northern  Papua  it  is  not  considered 
right  for  a  man  to  be  seen  associating  socially  with  a  woman,  even  if  she 
is  the  mother  of  his  children.  In  Tahiti  "family  life  is  quite  unknown." 
Out  of  this  segregation  of  the  sexes  come  those  secret  fraternities— usually 
of  males— which  appear  everywhere  among  primitive  races,  and  serve  most 
often  as  a  refuge  against  women.88  They  resemble  our  modern  fraternities 
in  another  point— their  hierarchical  organization. 

The  simplest  form  of  the  family,  then,  was  the  woman  and  her  children, 
living  with  her  mother  or  her  brother  in  the  clan;  such  an  arrangement 
was  a  natural  outgrowth  of  the  animal  family  of  the  mother  and  her  litter, 
and  of  the  biological  ignorance  of  primitive  man.  An  alternative  early 
form  was  "matrilocal  marriage":  the  husband  left  his  clan  and  went  to  live 
with  the  clan  and  family  of  his  wife,  laboring  for  her  or  with  her  in  the 
service  of  her  parents.  Descent,  in  such  cases,  was  traced  through  the 
female  line,  and  inheritance  was  through  the  mother;  sometimes  even  the 
kingship  passed  down  through  her  rather  than  through  the  male.88  This 
"mother-right"  was  not  a  "matriarchate"— it  did  not  imply  the  rule  of 
women  over  men.*4  Even  when  property  was  transmitted  through  the 
woman  she  had  little  power  over  it;  she  was  used  as  a  means  of  tracing 
relationships  which,  through  primitive  laxity  or  freedom,  were  otherwise 
obscure."  It  is  true  that  in  any  system  of  society  the  woman  exercises  a 
certain  authority,  rising  naturally  out  of  her  importance  in  the  home,  out 
of  her  function  as  the  dispenser  of  food,  and  out  of  the  need  that  the 
male  has  of  her,  and  her  power  to  refuse  him.  It  is  also  true  that  there 
have  been,  occasionally,  women  rulers  among  some  South  African  tribes; 
that  in  the  Pelew  Islands  the  chief  did  nothing  of  consequence  without 
the  advice  of  a  council  of  elder  women;  that  among  the  Iroquois  the 
squaws  had  an  equal  right,  with  the  men,  of  speaking  and  voting  in  the 
tribal  council;8*  and  that  among  the  Seneca  Indians  women  held  great 
power,  even  to  the  selection  of  the  chief.  But  these  are  rare  and  exceptional 
cases.  All  in  all  the  position  of  woman  in  early  societies  was  one  of  sub- 
jection verging  upon  slavery.  Her  periodic  disability,  her  unfamiliarity 


with  weapons,  the  biological  absorption  of  her  strength  in  carrying,  nurs- 
ing and  rearing  children,  handicapped  her  in  the  war  of  the  sexes,  and 
doomed  her  to  a  subordinate  status  in  all  but  the  very  lowest  and  the  very 
highest  societies.  Nor  was  her  position  necessarily  to  rise  with  the  develop- 
ment of  civilization;  it  was  destined  to  be  lower  in  Periclean  Greece  than 
among  the  North  American  Indians;  it  was  to  rise  and  fall  with  her  strategic 
importance  rather  than  with  the  culture  and  morals  of  men. 

In  the  hunting  stage  she  did  almost  all  the  work  except  the  actual 
capture  of  the  game.  In  return  for  exposing  himself  to  the  hardships  and 
risks  of  the  chase,  the  male  rested  magnificently  for  the  greater  part  of 
the  year.  The  woman  bore  her  children  abundantly,  reared  them,  kept 
the  hut  or  home  in  repair,  gathered  food  in  woods  and  fields,  cooked, 
cleaned,  and  made  the  clothing  and  the  boots."  Because  the  men,  when 
the  tribe  moved,  had  to  be  ready  at  any  moment  to  fight  off  attack,  they 
carried  nothing  but  their  weapons;  the  women  carried  all  the  rest.  Bush- 
women  were  used  as  servants  and  beasts  of  burden;  if  they  proved  too 
weak  to  keep  up  with  the  march,  tfiey  were  abandoned.88  When  the 
natives  of  the  Lower  Murray  saw  pack  oxen  they  thought  that  these  were 
the  wives  of  the  whites."  The  differences  in  strength  which  now  divide 
the  sexes  hardly  existed  in  those  days,  and  are  now  environmental  rather 
than  innate:  woman,  apart  from  her  biological  disabilities,  was  almost  the 
equal  of  man  in  stature,  endurance,  resourcefulness  and  courage;  she  was 
not  yet  an  ornament,  a  thing  of  beauty,  or  a  sexual  toy;  she  was  a  robust 
animal,  able  to  perform  arduous  work  for  long  hours,  and,  if  necessary, 
to  fight  to  the  death  for  her  children  or  her  clan.  "Women,"  said  a 
chieftain  of  the  Chippewas,  "are  created  for  work.  One  of  them  can 
draw  or  carry  as  much  as  two  men.  They  also  pitch  our  tents,  make  our 
clothes,  mend  them,  and  keep  us  warm  at  night. . . .  We  absolutely  cannot 
get  along  without  them  on  a  journey.  They  do  everything  and  cost  only 
a  little;  for  since  they  must  be  forever  cooking,  they  can  be  satisfied  in 
lean  times  by  licking  their  fingers."40 

Most  economic  advances,  in  early  society,  were  made  by  the  woman 
rather  than  the  man.  While  for  centuries  he  clung  to  his  ancient  ways  of 
hunting  and  herding,  she  developed  agriculture  near  the  camp,  and  those 
busy  arts  of  the  home  which  were  to  become  the  most  important  industries 
of  later  days.  From  the  "wool-bearing  tree,"  as  the  Greeks  called  the 
cotton  plant,  the  primitive  woman  rolled  thread  and  made  cotton  cloth." 
It  was  she,  apparently,  who  developed  sewing,  weaving,  basketry,  pottery, 


woodworking,  and  building;  and  in  many  cases  it  was  she  who  carried  on 
primitive  trade.**  It  was  she  who  developed  the  home,  slowly  adding  man 
to  the  list  of  her  domesticated  animals,  and  training  him  in  those  social 
dispositions  and  amenities  which  are  the  psychological  basis  and  cement 
of  civilization. 

But  as  agriculture  became  more  complex  and  brought  larger  rewards, 
the  stronger  sex  took  more  and  more  of  it  into  its  own  hands.4*  The 
growth  of  cattle-breeding  gave  the  man  a  new  source  of  wealth,  stability 
and  power;  even  agriculture,  which  must  have  seemed  so  prosaic  to  the 
mighty  Nimrods  of  antiquity,  was  at  last  accepted  by  the  wandering 
male,  and  the  economic  leadership  which  tillage  had  for  a  time  given  to 
women  was  wrested  from  them  by  the  men.  The  application  to  agri- 
culture of  those  very  animals  that  woman  had  first  domesticated  led  to  her 
replacement  by  the  male  in  the  control  of  the  fields;  the  advance  from  the 
hoe  to  the  plough  put  a  premium  upon  physical  strength,  and  enabled  the 
man  to  assert  his  supremacy.  The  growth  of  transmissible  property  in 
cattle  and  in  the  products  of  the  soil  led  to  the  sexual  subordination  of 
woman,  for  the  male  now  demanded  from  her  that  fidelity  which  he 
thought  would  enable  him  to  pass  on  his  accumulations  to  children  pre- 
sumably his  own.  Gradually  the  man  had  his  way:  fatherhood  became 
recognized,  and  property  began  to  descend  through  the  male;  mother- 
right  yielded  to  father-right;  and  the  patriarchal  family,  with  the  oldest 
male  at  its  head,  became  the  economic,  legal,  political  and  moral  unit  of 
i  society.  The  gods,  who  had  been  mostly  feminine,  became  great  bearded 
[  patriarchs,  with  such  harems  as  ambitious  men  dreamed  of  in  their  solitude. 
This  passage  to  the  patriarchal— father-ruled— family  was  fatal  to  the 
position  of  woman.  In  all  essential  aspects  she  and  her  children  became 
the  property  first  of  her  father  or  oldest  brother,  then  of  her  husband. 
She  was  bought  in  marriage  precisely  as  a  slave  was  bought  in  the  market. 
She  was  bequeathed  as  property  when  her  husband  died;  and  in  some 
places  (New  Guinea,  the  New  Hebrides,  the  Solomon  Islands,  Fiji,  India, 
etc.)  she  was  strangled  and  buried  with  her  dead  husband,  or  was  expected 
to  commit  suicide,  in  order  to  attend  upon  him  in  the  other  world.44  The 
father  had  now  the  right  to  treat,  give,  sell  or  lend  his  wives  and  daughters 
very  much  as  he  pleased,  subject  only  to  the  social  condemnation  of  other 
fathers  exercising  the  same  rights.  While  the  male  reserved  the  privilege 
of  extending  his  sexual  favors  beyond  his  home,  the  woman— under  patri- 


archal  institutions—was  vowed  to  complete  chastity  before  marriage,  and 
complete  fidelity  after  it.    The  double  standard  was  born. 

The  general  subjection  of  woman  which  had  existed  in  the  hunting 
stage,  and  had  persisted,  in  diminished  form,  through  the  period  of  mother- 
right,  became  now  more  pronounced  and  merciless  than  before.  Im 
ancient  Russia,  on  the  marriage  of  a  daughter,  the  father  struck  her 
gently  with  a  whip,  and  then  presented  the  whip  to  the  bridegroom,*6  as 
a  sign  that  her  beatings  were  now  to  come  from  a  rejuvenated  hand.  Even 
the  American  Indians,  among  whom  mother-right  survived  indefinitely, 
treated  their  women  harshly,  consigned  to  them  all  drudgery,  and  often 
called  them  dogs.4*  Everywhere  the  life  of  a  woman  was  considered 
cheaper  than  that  of  a  man;  and  when  girls  were  born  there  was  none  of 
the  rejoicing  that  marked  the  coming  of  a  male.  Mothers  sometimes 
destroyed  their  female  children  to  keep  them  from  misery.  In  Fiji  wives 
might  be  sold  at  pleasure,  and  the  usual  price  was  a  musket/7  Among 
some  tribes  man  and  wife  did  not  sleep  together,  lest  the  breath  of  the 
woman  should  enfeeble  the  man;  in  Fiji  it  was  not  thought  proper  for  a 
man  to  sleep  regularly  at  home;  in  New  Caledonia  the  wife  slept  in  a  shed, 
while  the  man  slept  in  the  house.  In  Fiji  dogs  were  allowed  in  some  of 
the  temples,  but  women  were  excluded  from  all;48  such  exclusion  of 
women  from  religious  services  survives  in  Islam  to  this  day.  Doubtless 
woman  enjoyed  at  all  times  the  mastery  that  comes  of  long-continued 
speech;  the  men  might  be  rebuffed,  harangued,  even—now  and  then- 
beaten.4"  But  all  in  all  the  man  was  lord,  the  woman  was  servant.  The 
Kaffir  bought  women  like  slaves,  as  a  form  of  life-income  insurance;  when 
he  had  a  sufficient  number  of  wives  he  could  rest  for  the  remainder  of  his 
days;  they  would  do  all  the  work  for  him.  Some  tribes  of  ancient  India 
reckoned  the  women  of  a  family  as  part  of  the  property  inheritance,  along 
with  the  domestic  animals;10  nor  did  the  last  commandment  of  Moses  dis- 
tinguish very  clearly  in  this  matter.  Throughout  negro  Africa  women 
hardly  differed  from  slaves,  except  that  they  were  expected  to  provide 
sexual  as  well  as  economic  satisfaction.  Marriage  began  as  a  form  of  the 
law  of  property,  as  a  part  of  the  institution  of  slavery."1 


The  Moral  Elements  of  Civilization 

SINCE  no  society  can  exist  without  order,  and  no  order  without  regu- 
lation, we  may  take  it  as  a  rule  of  history  that  the  power  of  custom 
varies  inversely  as  the  multiplicity  of  laws,  much  as  the  power  of  instinct 
varies  inversely  as  the  multiplicity  of  thoughts.  Some  rules  are  necessary 
for  the  game  of  life;  they  may  differ  in  different  groups,  but  within  the 
group  they  must  be  essentially  the  same.  These  rules  may  be  conven- 
tions, customs,  morals,  or  laws.  Conventions  are  forms  of  behavior  found 
expedient  by  a  people;  customs  are  conventions  accepted  by  successive 
generations,  after  natural  selection  through  trial  and  error  and  elimination; 
morals  are  such  customs  as  the  group  considers  vital  to  its  welfare  and 
development.  In  primitive  societies,  where  there  is  no  written  law,  these 
vital  customs  or  morals  regulate  every  sphere  of  human  existence,  and 
give  stability  and  continuity  to  the  social  order.  Through  the  slow 
magic  of  time  such  customs,  by  long  repetition,  become  a  second  nature 
in  the  individual;  if  he  violates  them  he  feels  a  certain  fear,  discomfort  or 
shame;  this  is  the  origin  of  that  conscience,  or  moral  sense,  which  Darwin 
chose  as  the  most  impressive  distinction  between  animals  and  men.1  In 
its  higher  development  conscience  is  social  consciousness— the  feeling  of 
the  individual  that  he  belongs  to  a  group,  and  owes  it  some  measure  of 
loyalty  and  consideration.  Morality  is  the  cooperation  of  the  part  with 
the  whole,  and  of  each  group  with  some  larger  whole.  Civilization,  of 
course,  would  be  impossible  without  it. 


The  meaning  of  marriage— Its  biological  origins— Sexual  com- 
munism— Trial  marriage— Group  marriage— Individual  mar- 
riage—Polygamy— Its    eugenic    value— Exogamy— Mar- 
riage by  service— By  capture— By  purchase— Primi- 
tive love— The  economic  function  of  marriage 

The  first  task  of  those  customs  that  constitute  the  moral  code  of  a  group 
is  to  regulate  the  relations  of  the  sexes,  for  these  are  a  perennial  source  of 
discord,  violence,  and  possible  degeneration.  The  basic  form  of  this 



sexual  regulation  is  marriage,  which  may  be  defined  as  the  association  of 
mates  for  the  care  of  offspring.  It  is  a  variable  and  fluctuating  institution, 
which  has  passed  through  almost  every  conceivable  form  and  experiment 
in  the  course  of  its  history,  from  the  primitive  care  of  offspring  without 
the  association  of  mates  to  the  modern  association  of  mates  without  the 
care  of  offspring. 

Our  animal  forefathers  invented  it.  Some  birds  seem  to  live  as  repro- 
ducing mates  in  a  divorceless  monogamy.  Among  gorillas  and  orang- 
utans the  association  of  the  parents  continues  to  the  end  of  the  breeding 
season,  and  has  many  human  features.  Any  approach  to  loose  behavior 
on  the  part  of  the  female  is  severely  punished  by  the  male.*  The  orangs 
of  Borneo,  says  De  Crespigny,  "live  in  families:  the  male,  the  female,  and 
a  young  one";  and  Dr.  Savage  reports  of  the  gorillas  that  "it  is  not  unusual 
to  see  the  'old  folks'  sitting  under  a  tree  regaling  themselves  with  fruit 
and  friendly  chat,  while  their  children  are  leaping  around  them  and  swing- 
ing from  branch  to  branch  in  boisterous  merriment."8  Marriage  is  older 
than  man. 

Societies  without  marriage  are  rare,  but  the  sedulous  inquirer  can  find 
enough  of  them  to  form  a  respectable  transition  from  the  promiscuity  of 
the  lower  mammals  to  the  marriages  of  primitive  men.  In  Futuna  and 
Hawaii  the  majority  of  the  people  did  not  marry  at  all;4  the  Lubus  mated 
freely  and  indiscriminately,  and  had  no  conception  of  marriage;  certain 
tribes  of  Borneo  lived  in  marriageless  association,  freer  than  the  birds;  and 
among  some  peoples  of  primitive  Russia  "the  men  utilized  the  women 
without  distinction,  so  that  no  woman  had  her  appointed  husband." 
African  pygmies  have  been  described  as  having  no  marriage  institutions, 
but  as  following  "their  animal  instincts  wholly  without  restraint."5  This 
primitive  "nationalization  of  women,"  corresponding  to  primitive  com- 
munism in  land  and  food,  passed  away  at  so  early  a  stage  that  few  traces 
of  it  remain*  Some  memory  of  it,  however,  lingered  on  in  divers  forms: 
in  the  feeling  of  many  nature  peoples  that  monogamy—which  they  would 
define  as  the  monopoly  of  a  woman  by  one  man— is  unnatural  and  immoral;9 
in  periodic  festivals  of  license  (still  surviving  faintly  in  our  Mardi  Gras), 
when  sexual  restraints  were  temporarily  abandoned;  in  the  demand  that 
a  woman  should  give  herself— as  at  the  Temple  of  Mylitta  in  Babylon— to 
any  man  that  solicited  her,  before  she  would  be  allowed  to  marry;*  in 

*  Cf .  below,  p.  245. 


the  custom  of  wife-lending,  so  essential  to  many  primitive  codes  of  hos- 
pitality; and  in  the  jus  prim<e  noctis,  or  right  of  the  first  night,  by  which, 
in  early  feudal  Europe,  the  lord  of  the  manor,  perhaps  representing  the 
ancient  rights  of  the  tribe,  occasionally  deflowered  the  bride  before  the 
bridegroom  was  allowed  to  consummate  the  marriage."* 

A  variety  of  tentative  unions  gradually  took  the  place  of  indiscriminate 
relations.  Among  the  Orang  Sakai  of  Malacca  a  girl  remained  for  a  time 
with  each  man  of  the  tribe,  passing  from  one  to  another  until  she  had 
made  the  rounds;  then  she  began  again.7  Among  the  Yakuts  of  Siberia, 
the  Botocudos  of  South  Africa,  the  lower  classes  of  Tibet,  and  many  other 
peoples,  marriage  was  quite  experimental,  and  could  be  ended  at  the  will 
of  either  party,  with  no  reasons  given  or  required.  Among  the  Bushmen 
"any  disagreement  sufficed  to  end  a  union,  and  new  connections  could 
immediately  be  found  for  both."  Among  the  Damaras,  according  to  Sir 
Francis  Galton,  "the  spouse  was  changed  almost  weekly,  and  I  seldom 
knew  without  inquiry  who  the  pro  tempore  husband  of  each  lady  was  at 
aqy  particular  time."  Among  the  Baila  "women  are  bandied  about  from 
man  to  man,  and  of  their  own  accord  leave  one  husband  for  another. 
Young  women  scarcely  out  of  their  teens  often  have  had  four  or  five 
husbands,  all  still  living."8  The  original  word  for  marriage,  in  Hawaii, 
meant  to  try.*  Among  the  Tahitians,  a  century  ago,  unions  were  free  and 
dissoluble  at  will,  so  long  as  there  were  no  children;  if  a  child  came  the 
parents  might  destroy  it  without  social  reproach,  or  the  couple  might 
rear  the  child  and  enter  into  a  more  permanent  relation;  the  man  pledged 
his  support  to  the  woman  in  return  for  the  burden  of  parental  care  that 
she  now  assumed.10 

Marco  Polo  writes  of  a  Central  Asiatic  tribe,  inhabiting  Peyn  (now 
Keriya)  in  the  thirteenth  century:  "If  a  married  man  goes  to  a  distance 
from  home  to  be  absent  twenty  days,  his  wife  has  a  right,  if  she  is  so 
inclined,  to  take  another  husband;  and  the  men,  on  the  same  principle, 
marry  wherever  they  happen  to  reside."11  So  old  are  the  latest  innovations 
in  marriage  and  morals. 

Letourneau  said  of  marriage  that  "every  possible  experiment  compatible 
with  the  duration  of  savage  or  barbarian  societies  has  been  tried,  or  is  still 
practised,  amongst  various  races,  without  the  least  thought  of  the  moral 
ideas  generally  prevailing  in  Europe.""  In  addition  to  experiments  in  perma- 
nence there  were  experiments  in  relationship.  In  a  few  cases  we  find  "group 


marriage,"  by  which  a  number  of  men  belonging  to  one  group  married 
collectively  a  number  of  women  belonging  to  another  group.18  In  Tibet,  for 
example,  it  was  the  custom  for  a  group  of  brothers  to  marry  a  group  of 
sisters,  and  for  the  two  groups  to  practise  sexual  communism  between  them, 
each  of  the  men  cohabiting  with  each  of  the  women.14  Caesar  reported  a 
similar  custom  in  ancient  Britain.18  Survivals  of  it  appear  in  the  "levirate," 
a  custom  existing  among  the  early  Jews  and  other  ancient  peoples,  by  which 
a  man  was  obligated  to  marry  his  brother's  widow;10  this  was  the  rule  that  so 
irked  Onan. 

What  was  it  that  led  men  to  replace  the  semi-promiscuity  of  primitive 
society  with  individual  marriage?  Since,  in  a  great  majority  of  nature 
peoples,  there  are  few,  if  any,  restraints  on  premarital  relations,  it  is 
obvious  that  physical  desire  does  not  give  rise  to  the  institution  of  marriage. 
For  marriage,  with  its  restrictions  and  psychological  irritations,  could  not 
possibly  compete  with  sexual  communism  as  a  mode  of  satisfying  the 
erotic  propensities  of  men.  Nor  could  the  individual  establishment  offer 
at  the  outset  any  mode  of  rearing  children  that  would  be  obviously 
superior  to  their  rearing  by  the  mother,  her  family,  and  the  clan.  Sonic 
powerful  economic  motives  must  have  favored  the  evolution  of  marriage. 
In  all  probability  (for  again  we  must  remind  ourselves  how  little  we  really 
know  of  origins)  these  motives  were  connected  with  the  rising  institution 
of  property. 

Individual  marriage  came  through  the  desire  of  the  male  to  have  cheap 
slaves,  and  to  avoid  bequeathing  his  property  to  other  men's  children. 
Polygamy,  or  the  marriage  of  one  person  to  several  mates,  appears  here 
and  there  in  the  form  of  polyandry— the  marriage  of  one  woman  to  several 
men— as  among  the  Todas  and  some  tribes  of  Tibet;"  the  custom  may 
still  be  found  where  males  outnumber  females  considerably.18  But  this 
custom  soon  falls  prey  to  the  conquering  male,  and  polygamy  has  come  to 
mean  for  us,  usually,  what  would  more  strictly  be  called  polygyny— the 
possession  of  several  wives  by  one  man.  Medieval  theologians  thought 
that  Mohammed  had  invented  polygamy,  but  it  antedated  Islam  by  some 
years,  being  the  prevailing  mode  of  marriage  in  the  primitive  world.1* 
Many  causes  conspired  to  make  it  general.  In  early  society,  because  of 
hunting  and  war,  the  life  of  the  male  is  more  violent  and  dangerous,  and 
the  death  rate  of  men  is  higher,  than  that  of  women.  The  consequent 
excess  of  women  compels  a  choice  between  polygamy  and  the  barren 


celibacy  of  a  minority  of  women;  but  such  celibacy  is  intolerable  to  peoples 
who  require  a  high  birth  rate  to  make  up  for  a  high  death  rate,  and  who 
therefore  scorn  the  mateless  and  childless  woman.  Again,  men  like  variety; 
as  the  Negroes  of  Angola  expressed  it,  they  were  "not  able  to  eat  always 
of  the  same  dish."  Also,  men  like  youth  in  their  mates,  and  women  age 
rapidly  in  primitive  communities.  The  women  themselves  often  favored 
polygamy;  it  permitted  them  to  nurse  their  children  longer,  and  therefore 
to  reduce  the  frequency  of  motherhood  without  interfering  with  the  erotic 
and  philoprogenitive  inclinations  of  the  male.  Sometimes  the  first  wife, 
burdened  with  toil,  helped  her  husband  to  secure  an  additional  wife,  so 
that  her  burden  might  be  shared,  and  additional  children  might  raise  the 
productive  power  and  the  wealth  of  the  family.80  Children  were  economic 
assets,  and  men  invested  in  wives  in  order  to  draw  children  from  them  like 
interest.  In  the  patriarchal  system  wives  and  children  were  in  effect  the 
slaves  of  the  man;  the  more  a  man  had  of  them,  the  richer  he  was.  The 
poor  man  practised  monogamy,  but  he  looked  upon  it  as  a  shameful  condi- 
tion, from  which  some  day  he  would  rise  to  the  respected  position  of  a 
polygamous  male." 

Doubtless  polygamy  was  well  adapted  to  the  marital  needs  of  a 
primitive  society  in  which  women  outnumbered  men.  It  had  a  eu- 
genic value  superior  to  that  of  contemporary  monogamy;  for  whereas 
in  modern  society  the  most  able  and  prudent  men  marry  latest  and  have 
least  children,  under  polygamy  the  most  able  men,  presumably,  secured 
the  best?  mates  and  had  most  children.  Hence  polygamy  has  survived 
among  practically  all  nature  peoples,  even  among  the  majority  of  civil- 
ized mankind;  only  in  our  day  has  it  begun  to  die  in  the  Orient.  Certain 
conditions,  however,  militated  against  it.  The  decrease  in  danger  and  vio- 
lence, consequent  upon  a  settled  agricultural  life,  brought  the  sexes  towards 
an  approximate  numerical  equality;  and  under  these  circumstances  open 
polygamy,  even  in  primitive  societies,  became  the  privilege  of  the  pros- 
perous minority  .M  The  mass  of  the  people  practised  a  monogamy  tempered 
with  adultery,  while  another  minority,  of  willing  or  regretful  celibates, 
balanced  the  polygamy  of  the  rich.  Jealousy  in  the  male,  and  possessive- 
ness  in  the  female,  entered  into  the  situation  more  effectively  as  the  sexes 
approximated  in  number;  for  where  the  strong  could  not  have  a  multiplic- 
ity of  wives  except  by  taking  the  actual  or  potential  wives  of  other  men. 
and  by  (in  some  cases)  offending  their  own,  polygamy  became  a  difficult 


matter,  which  only  the  cleverest  could  manage.  As  property  accumu- 
lated, and  men  were  loath  to  scatter  it  in  small  bequests,  it  became  desir- 
able to  differentiate  wives  into  "chief  wife"  and  concubines,  so  that  only 
the  children  of  the  former  should  share  the  legacy;  this  remained  the  status 
of  marriage  in  Asia  until  our  own  generation.  Gradually  the  chief  wife 
became  the  only  wife,  the  concubines  became  kept  women  in  secret  and 
apart,  or  they  disappeared;  and  as  Christianity  entered  upon  the  scene, 
monogamy,  in  Europe,  took  the  place  of  polygamy  as  the  lawful  and  out- 
ward form  of  sexual  association.  But  monogamy,  like  letters  and  the  state, 
is  artificial,  and  belongs  to  the  history,  not  to  the  origins,  of  civilization. 

Whatever  form  the  union  might  take,  marriage  was  obligatory  among 
nearly  all  primitive  peoples.  The  unmarried  male  had  no  standing  in  the 
community,  or  was  considered  only  half  a  man.83  Exogamy,  too,  was  com- 
pulsory: that  is  to  say,  a  man  was  expected  to  secure  his  wife  from  another 
clan  than  his  own.  Whether  this  custom  arose  because  the  primitive  mind 
suspected  the  evil  effects  of  close  inbreeding,  or  because  such  intergroup 
marriages  created  or  cemented  useful  political  alliances,  promoted  social 
organization,  and  lessened  the  danger  of  war,  or  because  the  capture  of  a 
wife  from  another  tribe  had  become  a  fashionable  mark  of  male  maturity, 
or  because  familiarity  breeds  contempt  and  distance  lends  enchantment  to 
the  view— we  do  not  know.  In  any  case  the  restriction  was  well-nigh  uni- 
versal in  early  society;  and  though  it  was  successfully  violated  by  the 
Pharaohs,  the  Ptolemies  and  the  Incas,  who  all  favored  the  marriage  of 
brother  and  sister,  it  survived  into  Roman  and  modern  law  and  consciously 
or  unconsciously  moulds  our  behavior  to  this  day. 

How  did  the  male  secure  his  wife  from  another  tribe?  Where  the  matri- 
archal organization  was  strong  he  was  often  required  to  go  and  live  with 
the  clan  of  the  girl  whom  he  sought.  As  the  patriarchal  system  developed, 
the  suitor  was  allowed,  after  a  term  of  service  to  the  father,  to  take  his 
bride  back  to  his  own  clan;  so  Jacob  served  Laban  for  Leah  and  Rachel.*4 
Sometimes  the  suitor  shortened  the  matter  with  plain,  blunt  force.  It  was 
an  advantage  as  well  as  a  distinction  to  have  stolen  a  wife;  not  only  would 
she  be  a  cheap  slave,  but  new  slaves  could  be  begotten  of  her,  and  these 
children  would  chain  her  to  her  slavery.  Such  marriage  by  capture,  though 
not  the  rule,  occurred  sporadically  in  the  primitive  world.  Among  the 
North  American  Indians  the  women  were  included  in  the  spoils  of  war, 
and  this  happened  so  frequently  that  in  some  tribes  the  husbands  and  their 


wives  spoke  mutually  unintelligible  languages.  The  Slavs  of  Russia  and 
Serbia  practised  occasional  marriage  by  capture  until  the  last  century.** 
Vestiges  of  it  remain  in  the  custom  of  simulating  the  capture  of  the  bride 
by  the  groom  in  certain  wedding  ceremonies."  All  in  all  it  was  a  logical 
aspect  of  the  almost  incessant  war  of  the  tribes,  and  a  logical  starting-point 
for  that  eternal  war  of  the  sexes  whose  only  truces  are  brief  nocturnes 
and  dreamless  sleep. 

As  wealth  grew  it  became  more  convenient  to  offer  the  father  a  sub- 
stantial present— or  a  sum  of  money— for  his  daughter,  rather  than  serve 
for  her  in  an  alien  clan,  or  risk  the  violence  and  feuds  that  might  come  of 
marriage  by  capture.  Consequently  marriage  by  purchase  and  parental 
arrangement  was  the  rule  in  early  societies.88  Transition  forms  occur;  the 
Melanesians  sometimes  stole  their  wives,  but  made  the  theft  legal  by  a 
later  payment  to  her  family.  Among  some  natives  of  New  Guinea  the  man 
abducted  the  girl,  and  then,  while  he  and  she  were  in  hiding,  commissioned 
his  friends  to  bargain  with  her  father  over  a  purchase  price.*  The  ease  with 
which  moral  indignation  in  these  matters  might  be  financially  appeased  is 
illuminating.  A  Maori  mother,  wailing  loudly,  bitterly  cursed  the  youth 
who  had  eloped  with  her  daughter,  until  he  presented  her  with  a  blanket. 
"That  was  all  I  wanted,"  she  said;  "I  only  wanted  to  get  a  blanket,  and 
therefore  made  this  noise."80  Usually  the  bride  cost  more  than  a  blanket: 
among  the  Hottentots  her  price  was  an  ox  or  a  cow;  among  the  Croo  three 
cows  and  a  sheep;  among  the  Kaffirs  six  to  thirty  head  of  cattle,  depend- 
ing upon  the  rank  of  the  girl's  family;  and  among  the  Togos  sixteen  dollars 
cash  and  six  dollars  in  goods.31 

Marriage  by  purchase  prevails  throughout  primitive  Africa,  and  is  still 
a  normal  institution  in  China  and  Japan;  it  flourished  in  ancient  India  and 
Judea,  and  in  pre-Columbian  Central  America  and  Peru;  instances  of  it  occur 
in  Europe  today."  It  is  a  natural  development  of  patriarchal  institutions; 
the  father  owns  the  daughter,  and  may  dispose  of  her,  within  broad  limits, 
as  he  sees  fit.  The  Orinoco  Indians  expressed  the  matter  by  saying  that  the 
suitor  should  pay  the  father  for  rearing  the  girl  for  his  use."  Sometimes 
the  girl  was  exhibited  to  potential  suitors  in  a  bride-show;  so  among  the 
Somalis  the  bride,  richly  caparisoned,  was  led  about  on  horseback  or  on 

*Briffault  thinks  that  marriage  by  capture  was  a  transition  from  matrilocal  to  patri- 
archal marriage:  the  male,  refusing  to  go  and  live  with  the  tribe  or  family  of  his  wife, 
forced  her  to  come  to  his."8  Lippert  believed  that  exogamy  arose  as  a  peaceable  substitute 
for  capture;15*  theft  again  graduated  into  trade. 


foot,  in  an  atmosphere  heavily  perfumed  to  stir  the  suitors  to  a  handsome 
price.14  There  is  no  record  of  women  objecting  to  marriage  by  purchase; 
on  the  contrary,  they  took  keen  pride  in  the  sums  paid  for  them,  and  scorned 
the  woman  who  gave  herself  in  marriage  without  a  price;15  they  believed  that 
in  a  "love-match"  the  villainous  male  was  getting  too  much  for  nothing.18 
On  the  other  hand,  it  was  usual  for  the  father  to  acknowledge  the  bride- 
groom's payment  with  a  return  gift  which,  as  time  went  on,  approximated 
more  and  more  in  value  to  the  sum  offered  for  the  bride.17  Rich  fathers, 
anxious  to  smooth  the  way  for  their  daughters,  gradually  enlarged  these 
gifts  until  the  institution  of  the  dowry  took  form;  and  the  purchase  of  the 
husband  by  the  father  replaced,  or  accompanied,  the  purchase  of  the  wife 
by  the  suitor.18 

In  all  these  forms  and  varieties  of  marriage  there  is  hardly  a  trace  of 
romantic  love.  We  find  a  few  cases  of  love-marriages  among  the  Papuans 
of  New  Guinea;  among  other  primitive  peoples  we  come  upon  instances 
of  love  (in  the  sense  of  mutual  devotion  rather  than  mutual  need),  but 
usually  these  attachments  have  nothing  to  do  with  marriage.  In  simple  days 
men  married  for  cheap  labor,  profitable  parentage,  and  regular  meals.  "In 
Yariba,"  says  Lander,  "marriage  is  celebrated  by  the  natives  as  uncon- 
cernedly as  possible;  a  man  thinks  as  little  of  taking  a  wife  as  of  cutting  an 
ear  of  corn— affection  is  altogether  out  of  the  question."89  Since  premarital 
relations  are  abundant  in  primitive  society,  passion  is  not  dammed  up  by 
denial,  and  seldom  affects  the  choice  of  a  wife.  For  the  same  reason— the  ab- 
sence of  delay  between  desire  and  fulfilment— no  time  is  given  for  that 
brooding  introversion  of  frustrated,  and  therefore  idealizing,  passion  which 
is  usually  the  source  of  youthful  romantic  love.  Such  love  is  reserved  for 
developed  civilizations,  in  which  morals  have  raised  barriers  against  desire, 
and  the  growth  of  wealth  has  enabled  some  men  to  afford,  and  some  women 
to  provide,  the  luxuries  and  delicacies  of  romance;  primitive  peoples  are  too 
poor  to  be  romantic.  One  rarely  finds  love  poetry  in  their  songs.  When 
the  missionaries 'translated  the  Bible  into  the  language  of  the  Algonquins 
they  could  discover  no  native  equivalent  for  the  word  love.  The  Hotten- 
tots are  described  as  "cold  and  indifferent  to  one  another"  in  marriage. 
On  the  Gold  Coast  "not  even  the  appearance  of  affection  exists  between 
husband  and  wife";  and  it  is  the  same  in  primitive  Australia.  "I  asked 
Baba,"  said  Caillie,  speaking  of  a  Senegal  Negro,  "why  he  did  not  some- 
times make  merry  with  his  wives.  He  replied  that  if  he  did  he  should  not 
be  able  to  manage  them."  An  Australian  native,  asked  why  he  wished  to 


marry,  answered  honestly  that  he  wanted  a  wife  to  secure  food,  water  and 
wood  for  him,  and  to  carry  his  belongings  on  the  march.40  The  kiss,  which 
seems  so  indispensable  to  America,  is  quite  unknown  to  primitive  peoples, 
•  or  known  only  to  be  scorned.41 

In  general  the  "savage"  takes  his  sex  philosophically,  with  hardly  more 
of  metaphysical  or  theological  misgiving  than  the  animal;  he  does  not  brood 
over  it,  or  fly  into  a  passion  with  it;  it  is  as  much  a  matter  of  course  with 
him  as  his  food.  He  makes  no  pretense  to  idealistic  motives.  Marriage  is 
never  a  sacrament  with  him,  and  seldom  an  affair  of  lavish  ceremony;  it  is 
frankly  a  commercial  transaction.  It  never  occurs  to  him  to  be  ashamed 
that  he  subordinates  emotional  to  practical  considerations  in  choosing  his 
mate;  he  would  rather  be  ashamed  of  the  opposite,  and  would  demand 
of  us,  if  he  were  as  immodest  as  we  are,  some  explanation  of  our  custom  of 
binding  a  man  and  a  woman  together  almost  for  life  because  sexual  desire 
has  chained  them  for  a  moment  with  its  lightning.  The  primitive  male 
looked  upon  marriage  in  terms  not  of  sexual  license  but  of  economic  co- 
operation. He  expected  the  woman— and  the  woman  expected  herself— to 
be  not  so  much  gracious  and  beautiful  (though  he  appreciated  these  quali- 
ties in  her)  as  useful  and  industrious;  she  was  to  be  an  economic  asset  rather 
than  a  total  loss;  otherwise  the  matter-of-fact  "savage"  would  never  have 
thought  of  marriage  at  all.  Marriage  was  a  profitable  partnership,  not  a 
private  debauch;  it  was  a  way  whereby  a  man  and  a  woman,  working 
together,  might  be  more  prosperous  than  if  each  worked  alone.  Wherever, 
in  the  history  of  civilization,  woman  has  ceased  to  be  an  economic  asset 
in  marriage,  marriage  has  decayed;  and  sometimes  civilization  has  decayed 
with  it. 


Premarital  relations  —  Prostitution  —  Chastity  —  Virginity  —  The 
double  standard—Modesty— The  relativity  of  morals— The 
biological  role  of  modesty— Adultery— Divorce— Abor- 
tion—Infanticide— Childhood— The  individual 

The  greatest  task  of  morals  is  always  sexual  regulation;  for  the  repro- 
ductive instinct  creates  problems  not  only  within  marriage,  but  before  and 
after  it,  and  threatens  at  any  moment  to  disturb  social  order  with  its  per- 
sistence, its  intensity,  its  scorn  of  law,  and  its  perversions.  The  first  prob- 
lem concerns  premarital  relations— shall  they  be  restricted,  or  free?  Even 
among  animals  sex  is  not  quite  unrestrained;  the  rejection  of  the  male  by 


the  female  except  in  periods  of  rut  reduces  sex  to  a  much  more  modest  role 
in  the  animal  world  than  it  occupies  in  our  own  lecherous  species.  As 
Beaumarchais  put  it,  man  differs  from  the  animal  in  eating  without  being 
hungry,  drinking  without  being  thirsty,  and  making  love  at  all  seasons. 
Among  primitive  peoples  we  find  some  analogue,  or  converse,  of  animal 
restrictions,  in  the  tabu  placed  upon  relations  with  a  woman  in  her  men- 
strual period.  With  this  general  exception  premarital  intercourse  is  left  for 
the  most  part  free  in  the  simplest  societies.  Among  the  North  American 
Indians  the  young  men  and  women  mated  freely;  and  these  relations  were 
not  held  an  impediment  to  marriage.  Among  the  Papuans  of  New 
Guinea  sex  life  began  at  an  extremely  early  age,  and  premarital  promiscu- 
ity was  the  rule.43  Similar  premarital  liberty  obtained  among  the  Soyots  of 
Siberia,  the  Igorots  of  the  Philippines,  the  natives  of  Upper  Burma,  the 
Kaffirs  and  Bushmen  of  Africa,  the  tribes  of  the  Niger  and  the  Uganda, 
of  New  Georgia,  the  Murray  Islands,  the  Andaman  Islands,  Tahiti,  Poly- 
nesia, Assam,  etc.44 

Under  such  conditions  we  must  not  expect  to  find  much  prostitution 
in  primitive  society.  The  "oldest  profession"  is  comparatively  young;  it 
arises  only  with  civilization,  with  the  appearance  of  property  and  the  dis- 
appearance of  premarital  freedom.  Here  and  there  we  find  girls  selling 
themselves  for  a  while  to  raise  a  dowry,  or  to  provide  funds  for  the  tem- 
ples; but  this  occurs  only  where  the  local  moral  code  approves  of  it  as  a 
pious  sacrifice  to  help  thrifty  parents  or  hungry  gods.4C 

Chastity  is  a  correspondingly  late  development.  What  the  primitive 
maiden  dreaded  was  not  the  loss  of  virginity,  but  a  reputation  for  sterility;40 
premarital  pregnancy  was,  more  often  than  not,  an  aid  rather  than  a  handi- 
cap in  finding  a  husband,  for  it  settled  all  doubts  of  sterility,  and  prom- 
ised profitable  children.  The  simpler  tribes,  before  the  coming  of  prop- 
erty, seem  to  have  held  virginity  in  contempt,  as  indicating  unpopularity. 
The  Kamchadal  bridegroom  who  found  his  bride  to  be  a  virgin  was  much 
put  out,  and  "roundly  abused  her  mother  for  the  negligent  way  in  which 
she  had  brought  up  her  daughter."47  In  many  places  virginity  was  consid- 
ered a  barrier  to  marriage,  because  it  laid  upon  the  husband  the  unpleasant 
task  of  violating  the  tabu  that  forbade  him  to  shed  the  blood  of  any  mem- 
ber of  his  tribe.  Sometimes  girls  offered  themselves  to  a  stranger  in  order 
to  break  this  tabu  against  their  marriage.  In  Tibet  mothers  anxiously  sought 
men  who  would  deflower  their  daughters;  in  Malabar  the  girls  themselves 
begged  the  services  of  passers-by  to  the  same  end,  "for  while  they  were 


virgins  they  could  not  find  a  husband."  In  some  tribes  the  bride  was 
obliged  to  give  herself  to  the  wedding  guests  before  going  in  to  her  hus- 
band; in  others  the  bridegroom  hired  a  man  to  end  the  virginity  of  his 
bride;  among  certain  Philippine  tribes  a  special  official  was  appointed,  at  a 
high  salary,  to  perform  this  function  for  prospective  husbands.** 

What  was  it  that  changed  virginity  from  a  fault  into  a  virtue,  and  made 
it  an  element  in  the  moral  codes  of  all  the  higher  civilizations?  Doubtless 
it  was  the  institution  of  property.  Premarital  chastity  came  as  an  exten- 
sion, to  the  daughters,  of  the  proprietary  feeling  with  which  the  patri- 
archal male  looked  upon  his  wife.  The  valuation  of  virginity  rose  when, 
'  under  marriage  by  purchase,  the  virgin  bride  was  found  to  bring  a  higher 
price  than  her  weak  sister;  the  virgin  gave  promise,  by  her  past,  of  that 
marital  fidelity  which  now  seemed  so  precious  to  men  beset  by  worry  lest 
they  should  leave  their  property  to  surreptitious  children.49 

The  men  never  thought  of  applying  the  same  restrictions  to  themselves; 
no  society  in  history  has  ever  insisted  on  the  premarital  chastity  of  the 
male;  no  language  has  ever  had  a  word  for  a  virgin  man.60  The  aura  of 
virginity  was  kept  exclusively  for  daughters,  and  pressed  upon  them  in 
a  thousands  ways.  The  Tuaregs  punished  the  irregularity  of  a  daughter 
or  a  sister  with  death;  the  Negroes  of  Nubia,  Abyssinia,  Somaliland,  etc., 
practised  upon  their  daughters  the  cruel  art  of  infibulation— i.e.,  the  attach- 
ment of  a  ring  or  lock  to  the  genitals  to  prevent  copulation;  in  Burma  and 
Siam  a  similar  practice  survived  to  our  own  day.61  Forms  of  seclusion  arose 
by  which  girls  were  kept  from  providing  or  receiving  temptation.  In  New 
Britain  the  richer  parents  confined  their  daughters,  through  five  danger- 
ous years,  in  huts  guarded  by  virtuous  old  crones;  the  girls  were  never 
allowed  to  come  out,  and  only  their  relatives  could  see  them.  Some  tribes 
in  Borneo  kept  their  unmarried  girls  in  solitary  confinement.62  From  these 
primitive  customs  to  the  purdah  of  the  Moslems  and  the  Hindus  is  but  a 
step,  and  indicates  again  how  nearly  "civilization"  touches  "savagery." 

Modesty  came  with  virginity  and  the  patriarchate.  There  are  many 
tribes  which  to  this  day  show  no  shame  in  exposing  the  body;88"  indeed, 
some  are  ashamed  to  wear  clothing.  All  Africa  rocked  with  laughter 
when  Livingstone  begged  his  black  hosts  to  put  on  some  clothing  before 
the  arrival  of  his  wife.  The  Queen  of  the  Balonda  was  quite  naked  when 
she  held  court  for  Livingstone."  A  small  minority  of  tribes  practise  sex  rela- 
tions publicly,  without  any  thought  of  shame.64  At  first  modesty  is  the 
feeling  of  the  woman  that  she  is  tabu  in  her  periods.  When  marriage 


by  purchase  takes  form,  and  virginity  in  the  daughter  brings  a  profit  to  her 
father,  seclusion  and  the  compulsion  to  virginity  beget  in  the  girl  a  sense  of 
obligation  to  chastity.  Again,  modesty  is  the  feeling  of  the  wife  who, 
under  purchase  marriage,  feels  a  financial  obligation  to  her  husband  to  re- 
frain from  such  external  sexual  relations  as  cannot  bring  him  any  recom- 
pense. Clothing  appears  at  this  point,  if  motives  of  adornment  and  pro- 
tection have  not  already  engendered  it;  in  many  tribes  women  wore 
clothing  only  after  marriage,"  as  a  sign  of  their  exclusive  possession  by  a 
husband,  and  as  a  deterrent  to  gallantry;  primitive  man  did  not  agree  with 
the  author  of  Penguin  Isle  that  clothing  encouraged  lechery.  Chastity, 
however,  bears  no  necessary  relation  to  clothing;  some  travelers  report  that 
morals  in  Africa  vary  inversely  as  the  amount  of  dress."  It  is  clear  that 
what  men  are  ashamed  of  depends  entirely  upon  the  local  tabus  and  cus- 
toms of  their  group.  Until  recently  a  Chinese  woman  was  ashamed  to 
show  her  foot,  an  Arab  woman  her  face,  a  Tuareg  woman  her  mouth;  but 
the  women  of  ancient  Egypt,  of  nineteenth-century  India  and  of  twen- 
tieth-century Bali  (before  prurient  tourists  came)  never  thought  of  shame 
at  the  exposure  of  their  breasts. 

We  must  not  conclude  that  morals  are  worthless  because  they  differ 
according  to  time  and  place,  and  that  it  would  be  wise  to  show  our  his- 
toric learning  by  at  once  discarding  the  moral  customs  of  our  group.  A 
little  anthropology  is  a  dangerous  thing.  It  is  substantially  true  that— as 
Anatole  France  ironically  expressed  the  matter— "morality  is  the  sum  of 
the  prejudices  of  a  community" ;"  and  that,  as  Anacharsis  put  it  among  the 
Greeks,  if  one  were  to  bring  together  all  customs  considered  sacred  by 
some  group,  and  were  then  to  take  away  all  customs  considered  immoral 
by  some  group,  nothing  would  remain.  But  this  does  not  prove  the  worth- 
lessness  of  morals;  it  only  shows  in  what  varied  ways  social  order  has  been 
preserved.  Social  order  is  none  the  less  necessary;  the  game  must  still  have 
rules  in  order  to  be  played;  men  must  know  what  to  expect  of  one  another 
in  the  ordinary  circumstances  of  life.  Hence  the  unanimity  with  which 
the  members  of  a  society  practise  its  moral  code  is  quite  as  important  as 
the  contents  of  that  code.  Our  heroic  rejection  of  the  customs  and  morals 
of  our  tribe,  upon  our  adolescent  discovery  of  their  relativity,  betrays  the 
immaturity  of  our  minds;  given  another  decade  and  we  begin  to  under- 
stand that  there  may  be  more  wisdom  in  the  moral  code  of  the  group— 
the  formulated  experience  of  generations  of  the  race— than  can  be  explained 
in  a  college  course.  Sooner  or  later  the  disturbing  realization  comes  to  us 


that  even  that  which  we  cannot  understand  may  be  true.  The  institu- 
tions, conventions,  customs  and  laws  that  make  up  the  complex  structure 
of  a  society  are  the  work  of  a  hundred  centuries  and  a  billion  minds; 
and  one  mind  must  not  expect  to  comprehend  them  in  one  lifetime,  much 
less  in  twenty  years.  We  are  warranted  in  concluding  that  morals  are 
relative,  and  indispensable. 

Since  old  and  basic  customs  represent  a  natural  selection  of  group 
ways  after  centuries  of  trial  and  error,  we  must  expect  to  find  some  social 
utility,  or  survival  value,  in  virginity  and  modesty,  despite  their  historical 
relativity,  their  association  with  marriage  by  purchase,  and  their  contribu- 
tions to  neurosis.  Modesty  was  a  strategic  retreat  which  enabled  the  girl, 
where  she  had  any  choice,  to  select  her  mate  more  deliberately,  or  compel 
him  to  show  finer  qualities  before  winning  her;  and  the  very  obstructions 
it  raised  against  desire  generated  those  sentiments  of  romantic  love  which 
heightened  her  value  in  his  eyes.  The  inculcation  of  virginity  destroyed 
the  naturalness  and  ease  of  primitive  sexual  life;  but,  by  discouraging 
early  sex  development  and  premature  motherhood,  it  lessened  the  gap 
—which  tends  to  widen  disruptively  as  civilization  develops— between  eco- 
nomic and  sexual  maturity.  Probably  it  served  in  this  way  to  strengthen 
the  individual  physically  and  mentally,  to  lengthen  adolescence  and  train- 
ing, and  so  to  lift  the  level  of  the  race. 

As  the  institution  of  property  developed,  adultery  graduated  from  a 
venial  into  a  mortal  sin.  Half  of  the  primitive  peoples  known  to  us  attach  no 
great  importance  to  it.™  The  rise  of  property  not  only  led  to  the  exaction 
of  complete  fidelity  from  the  woman,  but  generated  in  the  male  a  pro- 
prietary attitude  towards  her;  even  when  he  lent  her  to  a  guest  it  was 
because  she  belonged  to  him  in  body  and  soul.  Suttee  was  the  completion 
of  this  conception;  the  woman  must  go  down  into  the  master's  grave  along 
with  his  other  belongings.  Under  the  patriarchate  adultery  was  classed 
with  theft;59  it  was,  so  to  speak,  an  infringement  of  patent.  Punishment  for 
it  varied  through  all  degrees  of  severity  from  the  indifference  of  the  simpler 
tribes  to  the  disembowelment  of  adulteresses  among  certain  California 
Indians.60  After  centuries  of  punishment  the  new  virtue  of  wifely  fidelity 
was  firmly  established,  and  had  generated  an  appropriate  conscience  in  the 
feminine  heart.  Many  Indian  tribes  surprised  their  conquerors  by  the  un- 
approachable virtue  of  their  squaws;  and  certain  male  travelers  have  hoped 
that  the  women  of  Europe  and  America  might  some  day  equal  in  marital 
faithfulness  the  wives  of  the  Zulus  and  the  Papuans.81 


It  was  easier  for  the  Papuans,  since  among  them,  as  among  most  primi- 
tive peoples,  there  were  few  impediments  to  the  divorce  of  the  woman  by 
the  man.  Unions  seldom  lasted  more  than  a  few  years  among  the  Amer- 
ican Indians.  "A  large  proportion  of  the  old  and  middle-aged  men,"  says 
Schoolcraft,  "have  had  many  different  wives,  and  their  children,  scattered 
around  the  country,  are  unknown  to  them."08  They  "laugh  at  Europeans 
for  having  only  one  wife,  and  that  for  life;  they  consider  that  the  Good 
Spirit  formed  them  to  be  happy,  and  not  to  continue  together  unless 
their  tempers  and  dispositions  were  congenial.""  The  Cherokees  changed 
wives  three  or  four  times  a  year;  the  conservative  Samoans  kept  them  as 
long  as  three  years.64  With  the  coming  of  a  settled  agricultural  life, 
unions  became  more  permanent.  Under  the  patriarchal  system  the  man 
found  it  uneconomical  to  divorce  a  wife,  for  this  meant,  in  effect,  to  lose 
a  profitable  slave."  As  the  family  became  the  productive  unit  of  society, 
tilling  the  soil  together,  it  prospered—other  things  equal— according  to  its 
size  and  cohesion;  it  was  found  to  some  advantage  that  the  union  of  the 
mates  should  continue  until  the  last  child  was  reared.  By  that  time  no 
energy  remained  for  a  new  romance,  and  the  lives  of  the  parents  had  been 
forged  into  one  by  common  work  and  trials.  Only  with  the  passage  to 
urban  industry,  and  the  consequent  reduction  of  the  family  in  size  and 
economic  importance,  has  divorce  become  widespread  again. 

In  general,  throughout  history,  men  have  wanted  many  children,  and 
therefore  have  called  motherhood  sacred;  while  women,  who  know  more 
about  reproduction,  have  secretly  rebelled  against  this  heavy  assignment, 
and  have  used  an  endless  variety  of  means  to  reduce  the  burdens  of  ma- 
ternity. Primitive  men  do  not  usually  care  to  restrict  population;  under 
normal  conditions  children  are  profitable,  and  the  male  regrets  only  that  they 
cannot  all  be  sons.  It  is  the  woman  who  invents  abortion,  infanticide  and 
contraception— for  even  the  last  occurs,  sporadically,  among  primitive  peo- 
ples." It  is  astonishing  to  find  how  similar  are  the  motives  of  the  "savage" 
to  the  "civilized"  woman  in  preventing  birth:  to  escape  the  burden  of 
rearing  offspring,  to  preserve  a  youthful  figure,  to  avert  the  disgrace  of 
extramarital  motherhood,  to  avoid  death,  etc.  The  simplest  means  of  re- 
ducing maternity  was  the  refusal  of  the  man  by  the  woman  during  the 
period  of  nursing,  which  might  be  prolonged  for  many  years.  Sometimes, 
as  among  the  Cheyenne  Indians,  the  women  developed  the  custom  of 
refusing  to  bear  a  second  child  until  the  first  was  ten  years  old.  In  New 
Britain  the  women  had  no  children  till  two  or  four  years  after  marriage. 


The  Guaycurus  of  Brazil  were  constantly  diminishing  because  the  women 
would  bear  no  children  till  the  age  of  thirty.  Among  the  Papuans  abortion 
was  frequent;  "children  are  burdensome,"  said  the  women;  "we  are  weary 
of  them;  we  go  dead."  Some  Maori  tribes  used  herbs  or  induced  artificial 
malposition  of  the  uterus,  to  prevent  conception67 

When  abortion  failed,  infanticide  remained.  Most  nature  peoples  per- 
mitted the  killing  of  the  newborn  child  if  it  was  deformed,  or  diseased, 
or  a  bastard,  or  if  its  mother  had  died  in  giving  it  birth.  As  if  any  reason 
would  be  good  in  the  task  of  limiting  population  to  the  available  means  of 
subsistence,  many  tribes  killed  infants  whom  they  considered  to  have  been 
born  under  unlucky  circumstances:  so  the  Bondei  natives  strangled  all 
children  who  entered  the  world  headfirst;  the  Kamchadals  killed  babes 
born  in  stormy  weather;  Madagascar  tribes  exposed,  drowned,  or  buried 
alive  children  who  made  their  debut  in  March  or  April,  or  on  a  Wednes- 
day or  a  Friday,  or  in  the  last  week  of  the  month.  If  a  woman  gave  birth 
to  twins  it  was,  in  some  tribes,  held  proof  of  adultery,  since  no  man  could 
be  the  father  of  two  children  at  the  same  time;  and  therefore  one  or  both 
of  the  children  suffered  death.  The  practice  of  infanticide  was  particularly 
prevalent  among  nomads,  who  found  children  a  problem  on  their  long 
marches.  The  Bangerang  tribe  of  Victoria  killed  half  their  children  at 
birth;  the  Lenguas  of  the  Paraguayan  Chaco  allowed  only  one  child  per 
family  per  seven  years  to  survive;  the  Abipones  achieved  a  French  econ- 
omy in  population  by  rearing  a  boy  and  a  girl  in  each  household,  killing 
off  other  offspring  as  fast  as  they  appeared.  Where  famine  conditions 
existed  or  threatened,  most  tribes  strangled  the  newborn,  and  some  tribes 
ate  them.  Usually  it  was  the  girl  that  was  most  subject  to  infanticide;  occa- 
sionally she  was  tortured  to  death  with  a  view  to  inducing  the  soul  to 
appear,  in  its  next  incarnation,  in  the  form  of  a  boy."  Infanticide  was  prac- 
tised without  cruelty  and  without  remorse;  for  in  the  first  moments  after 
delivery,  apparently,  the  mother  felt  no  instinctive  love  for  the  child. 

Oijce  the  child  had  been  permitted  to  live  a  few  days,  it  was  safe 
against  infanticide;  soon  parental  love  was  evoked  by  its  helpless  sim- 
plicity, and  in  most  cases  it  was  treated  more  affectionately  by  its  primi- 
tive parents  than  the  average  child  of  the  higher  races.6*  For  lack  of  milk 
or  soft  food  the  mother  nursed  the  child  from  two  to  four  years,  sometimes 
for  twelve;1*  one  traveler  describes  a  boy  who  had  learned  to  smoke  before 
he  was  weaned;"  and  often  a  youngster  running  about  with  other  children 
would  interrupt  his  play— or  his  work— to  go  and  be  nursed  by  his 


mother."  The  Negro  mother  at  work  carried  her  infant  on  her  back,  and 
sometimes  fed  it  by  slinging  her  breasts  over  her  shoulder.71  Primitive  dis- 
cipline was  indulgent  but  not  ruinous;  at  an  early  age  the  child  was  left  to 
face  for  itself  the  consequences  of  its  stupidity,  its  insolence,  or  its  pug- 
nacity; and  learning  went  on  apace.  Filial,  as  well  as  parental,  love  was 
highly  developed  in  natural  society.74 

Dangers  and  disease  were  frequent  in  primitive  childhood,  and  mortal- 
ity was  high.  Youth  was  brief,  for  at  an  early  age  marital  and  martial  re- 
sponsibility began,  and  soon  the  individual  was  lost  in  the  heavy  tasks  of 
replenishing  and  defending  the  group.  The  women  were  consumed  in  car- 
ing for  children,  the  men  in  providing  for  them.  When  the  youngest  child 
had  been  reared  the  parents  were  worn  out;  as  little  space  remained  for 
individual  life  at  the  end  as  at  the  beginning.  Individualism,  like  liberty, 
is  a  luxury  of  civilization.  Only  with  the  dawn  of  history  were  a  suffi- 
cient number  of  men  and  women  freed  from  the  burdens  of  hunger, 
reproduction  and  war  to  create  the  intangible  values  of  leisure,  culture 
and  art. 


The  nature  of  virtue  and  vice— Greed— Dishonesty— Violence- 
Homicide  —  Suicide  —  The  socialization  of  the  individual  — 
Altruism— Hospitality— Manners— Tribal  limits  of  ?noral- 
ity— Primitive  vs.  modern  morals— Religion  and  morals 

Part  of  the  function  of  parentage  is  the  transmission  of  a  moral  code.b 
For  the  child  is  more  animal  than  human;  it  has  humanity  thrust  upon  itt 
day  by  day  as  it  receives  the  moral  and  mental  heritage  of  the  race.  Bio- 
logically it  is  badly  equipped  for  civilization,  since  its  instincts  provide 
only  for  traditional  and  basic  situations,  and  include  impulses  more  adapted 
to  the  jungle  than  to  the  town.  Every  vice  was  once  a  virtue,  necessary  in 
the  struggle  for  existence;  it  became  a  vice  only  when  it  survived  the  condi- 
tions that  made  it  indispensable;  a  vice,  therefore,  is  not  an  advanced  form 
of  behavior,  but  usually  an  atavistic  throwback  to  ancient  and  superseded 
ways.  It  is  one  purpose  of  a  moral  code  to  adjust  the  unchanged— or  slowly 
changing— impulses  of  human  nature  to  the  changing  needs  and  circum- 
stances of  social  life. 

Greed,  acquisitiveness,  dishonesty,  cruelty  and  violence  were  for  so 
many  generations  useful  to  animals  and  men  that  not  all  our  laws,  our 


education,  our  morals  and  our  religions  can  quite  stamp  them  out;  some 
of  them,  doubtless,  have  a  certain  survival  value  even  today.  The  animal 
gorges  himself  because  he  does  not  know  when  he  may  find  food  again; 
this  uncertainty  is  the  origin  of  greed.  The  Yakuts  have  been  known  to 
eat  forty  pounds  of  meat  in  one  day;  and  similar  stories,  only  less  heroic, 
are  told  of  the  Eskimos  and  the  natives  of  Australia.75  Economic  security 
is  too  recent  an  achievement  of  civilization  to  have  eliminated  this  natural 
greed;  it  still  appears  in  the  insatiable  acquisitiveness  whereby  the  fretful 
modern  man  or  woman  stores  up  gold,  or  other  goods,  that  may  in  emer- 
gency be  turned  into  food.  Greed  for  drink  is  not  as  widespread  as  greed 
for  food,  for  most  human  aggregations  have  centered  around  some  water 
supply.  Nevertheless,  the  drinking  of  intoxicants  is  almost  universal;  not 
so  much  because  men  are  greedy  as  because  they  are  cold  and  wish  to  be 
warmed,  or  unhappy  and  wish  to  forget— or  simply  because  the  water 
available  to  them  is  not  fit  to  drink. 

Dishonesty  is  not  so  ancient  as  greed,  for  hunger  is  older  than  property. 
The  simplest  "savages"  seem  to  be  the  most  honest.70  "Their  word  is 
sacred,"  said  Kolben  of  the  Hottentots;  they  know  "nothing  of  the  cor- 
ruptness and  faithless  arts  of  Europe."77  As  international  communica- 
tions improved,  this  naive  honesty  disappeared;  Europe  has  taught  the 
gentle  art  to  the  Hottentots.  In  general,  dishonesty  rises  with  civilization, 
because  under  civilization  the  stakes  of  diplomacy  are  larger,  there  are 
more  things  to  be  stolen,  and  education  makes  men  clever.  When  prop- 
erty develops  among  primitive  men,  lying  and  stealing  come  in  its  train.78 

Crimes  of  violence  are  as  old  as  greed;  the  struggle  for  food,  land  and 
mates  has  in  every  generation  fed  the  earth  with  blood,  .and  has  offered 
a  dark  background  for  the  fitful  light  of  civilization.  Primitive  man  was 
cruel  because  he  had  to  be;  life  taught  him  that  he  must  have  an  arm 
always  ready  to  strike,  and  a  heart  apt  for  "natural  killing."  The  blackest 
page  in  anthropology  is  the  story  of  primitive  torture,  and  of  the  joy  that 
many  primitive  men  and  women  seem  to  have  taken  in  the  infliction  of 
pain.7*  Much  of  this  cruelty  was  associated  with  war;  within  the  tribe 
manners  were  less  ferocious,  and  primitive  men  treated  one  another— and 
even  their  slaves— with  a  quite  civilized  kindliness.80  But  since  men  had  to 
kill  vigorously  in  war,  they  learned  to  kill  also  in  time  of  peace;  for  to 
many  a  primitive  mind  no  argument  is  settled  until  one  of  the  disputants 
is  dead.  Among  many  tribes  murder,  even  of  another  member  of  the  same 


clan,  aroused  far  less  horror  than  it  used  to  do  with  us.  The  Fuegians  pun- 
ished a  murderer  merely  by  exiling  him  until  his  fellows  had  forgotten 
his  crime.  The  Kaffirs  considered  a  murderer  unclean,  and  required  that 
he  should  blacken  his  face  with  charcoal;  but  after  a  while,  if  he  washed 
himself,  rinsed  his  mouth,  and  dyed  himself  brown,  he  was  received  into 
society  again.  The  savages  of  Futuna,  like  our  own,  looked  upon  a  mur- 
derer as  a  hero.81  In  several  tribes  no  woman  would  marry  a  man  who  had 
not  killed  some  one,  in  fair  fight  or  foul;  hence  the  practice  of  head- 
hunting, which  survives  in  the  Philippines  today.  The  Dyak  who  brought 
back  most  heads  from  such  a  man-hunt  had  the  choice  of  all  the  girls  in 
his  village;  these  were  eager  for  his  favors,  feeling  that  through  him  they 
might  become  the  mothers  of  brave  and  potent  men.*82 

Where  food  is  dear  life  is  cheap.  Eskimo  sons  must  kill  their  parents 
when  these  have  become  so  old  as  to  be  helpless  and  useless;  failure  to 
kill  them  in  such  cases  would  be  considered  a  breach  of  filial  duty.83  Even 
his  own  life  seems  cheap  to  primitive  man,  for  he  kills  himself  with  a  readi- 
ness rivaled  only  by  the  Japanese.  If  an  offended  person  commits  suicide, 
or  mutilates  himself,  the  offender  must  imitate  him  or  become  a  pariah;84  so 
old  is  hara-kiri.  Any  reason  may  suffice  for  suicide:  some  Indian  women 
of  North  America  killed  themselves  because  their  men  had  assumed  the 
privilege  of  scolding  them;  and  a  young  Trobriand  Islander  committed 
suicide  because  his  wife  had  smoked  all  his  tobacco.85 

To  transmute  greed  into  thrift,  violence  into  argument,  murder  into 
litigation,  and  suicide  into  philosophy  has  been  part  of  the  task  of  civili- 
zation. It  was  a  great  advance  when  the  strong  consented  to  eat  the  weak 
by  due  process  of  law.  No  society  can  survive  if  it  allows  its  members  to 
behave  toward  one  another  in  the  same  way  in  which  it  encourages  them 
to  behave  as  a  group  toward  other  groups;  internal  cooperation  is  the  first 
law  of  external  competition.  The  struggle  for  existence  is  not  ended  by 
mutual  aid,  it  is  incorporated,  or  transferred  to  the  group.  Other  things 
equal,  the  ability  to  compete  with  rival  groups  will  be  proportionate  to 
the  ability  of  the  individual  members  and  families  to  combine  with  one 
another.  Hence  every  society  inculcates  a  moral  code,  and  builds  up  in  the 
heart  of  the  individual,  as  its  secret  allies  and  aides,  social  dispositions  that 
mitigate  the  natural  war  of  life;  it  encourages— by  calling  them  virtues— 

*  This  is  half  the  theme  of  Synge's  drama,  The  Playboy  of  the  Western  World. 


those  qualities  or  habits  in  the  individual  which  redound  to  the  advantage 
of  the  group,  and  discourages  contrary  qualities  by  calling  them  vices. 
In  this  way  the  individual  is  in  some  outward  measure  socialized,  and  the 
animal  becomes  a  citizen. 

It  was  hardly  more  difficult  to  generate  social  sentiments  in  the  soul  of 
the  "savage"  than  it  is  to  raise  them  now  in  the  heart  of  modern  man.  The 
struggle  for  life  encouraged  communalism,  but  the  struggle  for  property 
intensifies  individualism.  Primitive  man  was  perhaps  readier  than  con- 
temporary man  to  cooperate  with  his  fellows;  social  solidarity  came  more 
easily  to  him  since  he  had  more  perils  and  interests  in  common  with  his 
group,  and  less  possessions  to  separate  him  from  the  rest.88  The  natural  man 
was  violent  and  greedy;  but  he  was  also  kindly  and  generous,  ready  to  share 
even  with  strangers,  and  to  make  presents  to  his  guests."7  Every  schoolboy 
knows  that  primitive  hospitality,  in  many  tribes,  went  to  the  extent  of 
offering  to  the  traveler  the  wife  or  daughter  of  the  host."  To  decline  such 
an  offer  was  a  serious  offense,  not  only  to  the  host  but  to  the  woman;  these 
are  among  the  perils  faced  by  missionaries.  Often  the  later  treatment  of  the 
guest  was  determined  by  the  manner  in  which  he  had  acquitted  himself  of 
these  responsibilities.8*  Uncivilized  man  appears  to  have  felt  proprietary,  but 
not  sexual,  jealousy;  it  did  not  disturb  him  that  his  wife  had  "known"  men 
before  marrying  him,  or  now  slept  with  his  guest;  but  as  her  owner,  rather 
than  her  lover,  he  would  have  been  incensed  to  find  her  cohabiting  with  an- 
other man  without  his  consent.  Some  African  husbands  lent  their  wives  to 
strangers  for  a  consideration.80 

The  rules  of  courtesy  were  as  complex  in  most  simple  peoples  as  in  ad- 
vanced nations.*1  Each  group  had  formal  modes  of  salutation  and  farewell. 
Two  individuals,  on  meeting,  rubbed  noses,  or  smelled  each  other,  or  gently 
bit  each  other;*8  as  we  have  seen,  they  never  kissed.  Some  crude  tribes  were 
more  polite  than  the  modern  average;  the  Dyak  head-hunters,  we  are  told, 
were  "gentle  and  peaceful"  in  their  home  life,  and  the  Indians  of  Central 
America  considered  the  loud  talking  and  brusque  behavior  of  the  white  man 
as  signs  of  poor  breeding  and  a  primitive  culture.*8 

Almost  all  groups  agree  in  holding  other  groups  to  be  inferior  to  them- 
selves. The  American  Indians  looked  upon  themselves  as  the  chosen  people, 
specially  created  by  the  Great  Spirit  as  an  uplifting  example  for  mankind. 
One  Indian  tribe  called  itself  "The  Only  Men";  another  called  itself  "Men 
of  Men";  the  Caribs  said,  "We  alone  are  people."  The  Eskimos  believed  that 
the  Europeans  had  come  to  Greenland  to  learn  manners  and  virtues.*4 
Consequently  it  seldom  occurred  to  primitive  man  to  extend  to  other  tribes 
the  moral  restraints  which  he  acknowledged  in  dealing  with  his  own;  he 


frankly  conceived  it  to  be  the  function  of  morals  to  give  strength  and  co- 
herence to  his  group  against  other  groups.  Commandments  and  tabus  ap- 
plied only  to  the  people  of  his  tribe;  with  others,  except  when  they  were  his 
guests,  he  might  go  as  far  as  he  dared.96 

Moral  progress  in  history  lies  not  so  much  in  the  improvement  of  the 
moral  code  as  in  the  enlargement  of  the  area  within  which  it  is  applied. 
The  morals  of  modern  man  are  not  unquestionably  superior  to  those  of 
primitive  man,  though  the  two  groups  of  codes  may  differ  considerably  in 
content,  practice  and  profession;  but  modern  morals  are,  in  normal  times, 
extended— though  with  decreasing  intensity— to  a  greater  number  of  people 
than  before.*  As  tribes  were  gathered  up  into  those  larger  units  called 
states,  morality  overflowed  its  tribal  bounds;  and  as  communication— or  a 
common  danger— united  and  assimilated  states,  morals  seeped  through  fron- 
tiers, and  some  men  began  to  apply  their  commandments  to  all  Europeans, 
to  all  whites,  at  last  to  all  men.  Perhaps  there  have  always  been  idealists 
who  wished  to  love  all  men  as  their  neighbors,  and  perhaps  in  every  gen- 
eration they  have  been  futile  voices  crying  in  a  wilderness  of  nationalism 
and  war.  But  probably  the  number— even  the  relative  number— of  such  men 
has  increased.  There  are  no  morals  in  diplomacy,  and  la  politique  ri*a  pas 
(Fentrailles;  but  there  are  morals  in  international  trade,  merely  because  such 
trade  cannot  go  on  without  some  degree  of  restraint,  regulation,  and  con- 
fidence. Trade  began  in  piracy;  it  culminates  in  morality. 

Few  societies  have  been  content  to  rest  their  moral  codes  upon  so 
frankly  rational  a  basis  as  economic  and  political  utility.  For  the  individ- 
ual is  not  endowed  by  nature  with  any  disposition  to  subordinate  his  per- 
sonal interests  to  those  of  the  group,  or  to  obey  irksome  regulations 
for  which  there  are  no  visible  means  of  enforcement.  To  provide,  so 
to  speak,  an  invisible  watchman,  to  strengthen  the  social  impulses  against 
the  individualistic  by  powerful  hopes  and  fears,  societies  have  not  in- 
vented but  made  use  of,  religion.  The  ancient  geographer  Strabo  expressed 
the  most  advanced  views  on  this  subject  nineteen  hundred  years  ago: 

For  in  dealing  with  a  crowd  of  women,  at  least,  or  with  any 
promiscuous  mob,  a  philosopher  cannot  influence  them  by  reason 
or  exhort  them  to  reverence,  piety  and  faith;  nay,  there  is  need  of 
religious  fear  also,  and  this  cannot  be  aroused  without  myths  and 
marvels.  For  thunderbolt,  aegis,  trident,  torches,  snakes,  thyrsus- 

*  However,  the  range  within  which  the  moral  code  is  applied  has  narrowed  since  the 
Middle  Ages,  as  the  result  of  the  rise  of  nationalism. 


lances-arms  of  the  gods— are  myths,  and  so  is  the  entire  ancient 
theology.  But  the  founders  of  states  gave  their  sanction  to  these 
things  as  bugbears  wherewith  to  scare  the  simple-minded.  Now 
since  this  is  the  nature  of  mythology,  and  since  it  has  come  to  have 
its  place  in  the  social  and  civil  scheme  of  life  as  well  as  in  the  his- 
tory of  actual  facts,  the  ancients  clung  to  their  system  of  education 
for  children  and  applied  it  up  to  the  age  of  maturity;  and  by  means 
of  poetry  they  believed  that  they  could  satisfactorily  discipline 
every  period  of  life.  But  now,  after  a  long  time,  the  writing  of 
history  and  the  present-day  philosophy  have  come  to  the  front. 
Philosophy,  however,  is  for  the  few,  whereas  poetry  is  more  useful 
to  the  people  at  large.08 

Morals,  then,  are  soon  endowed  with  religious  sanctions,  because  mys- 
tery and  supernaturalism  lend  a  weight  which  can  never  attach  to  things 
empirically  known  and  genetically  understood;  men  are  more  easily  ruled 
by  imagination  than  by  science.  But  was  this  moral  utility  the  source  or 
origin  of  religion? 


Primitive  atheists 

If  we  define  religion  as  the  worship  of  supernatural  forces,  we  must 
observe  at  the  outset  that  some  peoples  have  apparently  no  religion  at  all. 
Certain  Pygmy  tribes  of  Africa  had  no  observable  cult  or  rites;  they  had 
no  totem,  no  fetishes,  and  no  gods;  they  buried  their  dead  without  cere- 
mony, and  seem  to  have  paid  no  further  attention  to  them;  they  lacked 
even  superstitions,  if  we  may  believe  otherwise  incredible  travelers.9"8  The 
dwarfs  of  the  Cameroon  recognized  only  malevolent  deities,  and  did  noth- 
ing to  placate  them,  on  the  ground  that  it  was  useless  to  try.  The  Ved- 
dahs  of  Ceylon  went  no  further  than  to  admit  the  possibility  of  gods  and 
immortal  souls;  but  they  offered  no  prayers  or  sacrifices.  Asked  about 
God  they  answered,  as  puzzled  as  the  latest  philosopher:  "Is  he  on  a  rock? 
On  a  white-ant  hill?  On  a  tree?  I  never  saw  a  god!  "WIb  The  North  Amer- 
ican Indians  conceived  a  god,  but  did  not  worship  him;  like  Epicurus  they 
thought  him  too  remote  to  be  concerned  in  their  affairs.980  An  Abipone 
Indian  rebuffed  a  metaphysical  inquirer  in  a  manner  quite  Confucian:  "Our 
grandfathers  and  our  great-grandfathers  were  wont  to  contemplate  the 
earth  alone,  solicitous  only  to  see  whether  the  plain  afford  grass  and  water 


for  their  horses.  They  never  troubled  themselves  about  what  went  on  in 
the  heavens,  and  who  was  the  creator  and  governor  of  the  stars."  The 
Eskimos,  when  asked  who  had  made  the  heavens  and  the  earth,  always 
replied,  "We  do  not  know."f>fld  A  Zulu  was  asked:  "When  you  see  the  sun 
rising  and  setting,  and  the  trees  growing,  do  you  know  who  made  them 
and  governs  them?"  He  answered,  simply:  "No,  we  see  them,  but  cannot 
tell  how  they  came;  we  suppose  that  they  came  by  themselves."988 

Such  cases  are  exceptional,  and  the  old  belief  that  religion  is  universal 
is  substantially  correct.  To  the  philosopher  this  is  one  of  the  outstanding 
facts  of  history  and  psychology;  he  is  not  content  to  know  that  all  re- 
ligions contain  much  nonsense,  but  rather  he  is  fascinated  by  the  problem 
of  the  antiquity  and  persistence  of  belief.  What  are  the  sources  of  the 
indestructible  piety  of  mankind? 

1.    The  Sources  of  Religion 
Fear—  Wonder— Dreams—  The  soul— Animism 

Fear,  as  Lucretius  said,  was  the  first  mother  of  the  gods.  Fear,  above 
all,  of  death.  Primitive  life  was  beset  with  a  thousand  dangers,  and  seldom 
ended  with  natural  decay;  long  before  old  age  could  come,  violence  or 
some  strange  disease  carried  off  the  great  majority  of  men.  Hence  early 
man  did  not  believe  that  death  was  ever  natural;07  he  attributed  it  to  the 
operation  of  supernatural  agencies.  In  the  mythology  of  the  natives  of 
New  Britain  death  came  to  men  by  an  error  of  the  gods.  The  good  god 
Kambinana  told  his  foolish  brother  Korvouva,  "Go  down  to  men  and 
tell  them  to  cast  their  skins;  so  shall  they  avoid  death.  But  tell  the  serpents 
that  they  must  henceforth  die."  Korvouva  mixed  the  messages;  he  delivered 
the  secret  of  immortality  to  the  snakes,  and  the  doom  of  death  to  men.98 
Many  tribes  thought  that  death  was  due  to  the  shrinkage  of  the  skin,  and 
that  man  would  be  immortal  if  only  he  could  moult.88 

Fear  of  death,  wonder  at  the  causes  of  chance  events  or  unintelligible 
happenings,  hope  for  divine  aid  and  gratitude  for  good  fortune,  cooper- 
ated to  generate  religious  belief.  Wonder  and  mystery  adhered  particularly 
to  sex  and  dreams,  and  the  mysterious  influence  of  heavenly  bodies  upon 
the  earth  and  man.  Primitive  man  marveled  at  the  phantoms  that  he 
saw  in  sleep,  and  was  struck  with  terror  when  he  beheld,  in  his  dreams, 
the  figures  of  those  whom  he  knew  to  be  dead.  He  buried  his  dead  in  the 


earth  to  prevent  their  return;  he  buried  victuals  and  goods  with  the  corpse 
lest  it  should  come  back  to  curse  him;  sometimes  he  left  to  the  dead  the 
house  in  which  death  had  come,  while  he  himself  moved  on  to  another 
shelter;  in  some  places  he  carried  the  body  out  of  the  house  not  through 
a  door  but  through  a  hole  in  the  wall,  and  bore  it  rapidly  three  times 
around  the  dwelling,  so  that  the  spirit  might  forget  the  entrance  and 
never  haunt  the  home."0 

Such  experiences  convinced  early  man  that  every  living  thing  had  a 
soul,  or  secret  life,  within  it,  which  could  be  separated  from  the  body 
in  illness,  sleep  or  death.  "Let  no  one  wake  a  man  brusquely,"  said  one 
of  the  Upanishads  of  ancient  India,  "for  it  is  a  matter  difficult  of  cure  if 
the  soul  find  not  its  way  back  to  him.""1  Not  man  alone  but  all  things  had 
souls;  the  external  world  was  not  insensitive  or  dead,  it  was  intensely 
alive;101  if  this  were  not  so,  thought  primitive  philosophy,  nature  would  be 
full  of  inexplicable  occurrences,  like  the  motion  of  the  sun,  or  the  death- 
dealing  lightning,  or  the  whispering  of  the  trees.  The  personal  way  of 
conceiving  objects  and  events  preceded  the  impersonal  or  abstract;  religion 
preceded  philosophy.  Such  animism  is  the  poetry  of  religion,  and  the 
religion  of  poetry.  We  may  see  it  at  its  lowest  in  the  wonder-struck  eyes 
of  a  dog  that  watches  a  paper  blown  before  him  by  the  wind,  and  perhaps 
believes  that  a  spirit  moves  the  paper  from  within;  and  we  find  the  same 
feeling  at  its  highest  in  the  language  of  the  poet.  To  the  primitive  mind— 
and  to  the  poet  in  all  ages— mountains,  rivers,  rocks,  trees,  stars,  sun,  moon 
and  sky  are  sacramentally  holy  things,  because  they  are  the  outward  and 
visible  signs  of  inward  and  invisible  souls.  To  the  early  Greeks  the  sky 
was  the  god  Ouranos,  the  moon  was  Selene,  the  earth  was  Gaea,  the  sea  was 
Poseidon,  and  everywhere  in  the  woods  was  Pan.  To  the  ancient  Germans 
the  forest  primeval  was  peopled  with  genii,  elves,  trolls,  giants,  dwarfs 
and  fairies;  these  sylvan  creatures  survive  in  the  music  of  Wagner  and  the 
poetic  dramas  of  Ibsen.  The  simpler  peasants  of  Ireland  still  believe  in 
fairies,  and  no  poet  or  playwright  can  belong  to  the  Irish  literary  revival 
unless  he  employs  them.  There  is  wisdom  as  well  as  beauty  in  this  animism; 
it  is  good  and  nourishing  to  treat  all  things  as  alive.  To  the  sensitive  spirit, 
says  the  most  sensitive  of  contemporary  writers, 

Nature  begins  to  present  herself  as  a  vast  congeries  of  separate 
living  entities,  some  visible,  some  invisible,  but  all  possessed  of 


mind-stuff,  all  possessed  of  matter-stuff,  and  all  blending  mind  and 
matter  together  in  the  basic  mystery  of  being.  .  .  .  The  world  is  full 
of  gods!  From  every  planet  and  from  every  stone  there  emanates 
a  presence  that  disturbs  us  with  a  sense  of  the  multitudinousness 
of  god-like  powers,  strong  and  feeble,  great  and  little,  moving  be- 
tween heaven  and  earth  upon  their  secret  purposes.10* 

2.    The  Objects  of  Religion 

The  sun—The  stars— The  earth— Sex— Animals— Totemism— The 
transition  to  human  gods— Ghost-worship— Ancestor-worship 

Since  all  things  have  souls,  or  contain  hidden  gods,  the  objects  of  re- 
ligious worship  are  numberless.  They  fall  into  six  classes:  celestial,  ter- 
restrial, sexual,  animal,  human,  and  divine.  Of  course  we  shall  never  know 
which  of  our  universe  of  objects  was  worshiped  first.  One  of  the  first  was 
probably  the  moon.  Just  as  our  own  folk-lore  speaks  of  the  "man  in  the 
moon,"  so  primitive  legend  conceived  the  moon  as  a  bold  male  who  caused 
women  to  menstruate  by  seducing  them.  He  was  a  favorite  god  with 
women,  who  worshiped  him  as  their  protecting  deity.  The  pale  orb  was 
also  the  measure  of  time;  it  was  believed  to  control  the  weather,  and  to 
make  both  rain  and  snow;  even  the  frogs  prayed  to  it  for  rain.104 

We  do  not  know  when  the  sun  replaced  the  moon  as  the  lord  of  the 
sky  in  primitive  religion.  Perhaps  it  was  when  vegetation  replaced  hunt- 
ing, and  the  transit  of  the  sun  determined  the  seasons  of  sowing  and  reaping, 
and  its  heat  was  recognized  as  the  main  cause  of  the  bounty  of  the  soil. 
Then  the  earth  became  a  goddess  fertilized  by  the  hot  rays,  and  men  wor- 
shiped the  great  orb  as  the  father  of  all  things  living.108  From  this  simple 
beginning  sun-worship  passed  down  into  the  pagan  faiths  of  antiquity, 
and  many  a  later  god  was  only  a  personification  of  the  sun.  Anaxagoras 
was  exiled  by  the  learned  Greeks  because  he  ventured  the  guess  that  the 
sun  was  not  a  god,  but  merely  a  ball  of  fire,  about  the  size  of  the  Pelo- 
ponnesus. The  Middle  Ages  kept  a  relic  of  sun-worship  in  the  halo 
pictured  around  the  heads  of  saints,10*  and  in  our  own  day  the  Emperor  of 
Japan  is  regarded  by  most  of  his  people  as  an  incarnation  of  the  sun- 
god.107  There  is  hardly  any  superstition  so  old  but  it  can  be  found  flourish- 
ing somewhere  today.  Civilization  is  the  precarious  labor  and  luxury  of 
a  minority;  the  basic  masses  of  mankind  hardly  change  from  millennium 
to  millennium. 


Like  the  sun  and  the  moon,  every  star  contained  or  was  a  god,  and 
moved  at  the  command  of  its  indwelling  spirit.  Under  Christianity  these 
spirits  became  guiding  angels,  star-pilots,  so  to  speak;  and  Kepler  was  not 
too  scientific  to  believe  in  them.  The  sky  itself  was  a  great  god,  wor- 
shiped devotedly  as  giver  and  withholder  of  rain.  Among  many  primitive 
peoples  the  word  for  god  meant  sky;  among  the  Lubari  and  the  Dinkas 
it  meant  rain.  Among  the  Mongols  the  supreme  god  was  Tengri— the  sky; 
in  China  it  was  Tz— the  sky;  in  Vedic  India  it  was  Dyaus  pitar—the  "father 
sky";  among  the  Greeks  it  was  Zeus— the  sky,  the  "cloud-compeller"; 
among  the  Persians  it  was  Ahura— the  "azure  sky";108  and  among  ourselves 
men  still  ask  "Heaven"  to  protect  them.  The  central  point  in  most  primi- 
tive mythology  is  the  fertile  mating  of  earth  and  sky. 

For  the  earth,  too,  was  a  god,  and  every  main  aspect  of  it  was  presided 
over  by  some  deity.  Trees  had  souls  quite  as  much  as  men,  and  it  was 
plain  murder  to  cut  them  down;  the  North  American  Indians  sometimes 
attributed  their  defeat  and  decay  to  the  fact  that  the  whites  had  leveled 
the  trees  whose  spirits  had  protected  the  Red  Men.  In  the  Molucca  Islands 
blossoming  trees  were  treated  as  pregnant;  no  noise,  fire,  or  other  disturb- 
ance was  permitted  to  mar  their  peace;  else,  like  a  frightened  woman,  they 
might  drop  their  fruit  before  time.  In  Amboyna  no  loud  sounds  were 
allowed  near  the  rice  in  bloom  lest  it  should  abort  into  straw.109  The 
ancient  Gauls  worshiped  the  trees  of  certain  sacred  forests;  and  the  Druid 
priests  of  England  reverenced  as  holy  that  mistletoe  of  the  oak  which  still 
suggests  a  pleasant  ritual.  The  veneration  of  trees,  springs,  rivers  and 
mountains  is  the  oldest  traceable  religion  of  Asia.110  Many  mountains  were 
holy  places,  homes  of  thundering  gods.  Earthquakes  were  the  shoulder- 
shrugging  of  irked  or  irate  deities:  the  Fijians  ascribed  such  agitations  to 
the  earth-god's  turning  over  in  his  sleep;  and  the  Samoans,  when  the  soil 
trembled,  gnawed  the  ground  and  prayed  to  the  god  Mafuie  to  stop,  lest 
he  should  shake  the  planet  to  pieces.111  Almost  everywhere  the  earth  was 
the  Great  Mother;  our  language,  which  is  often  the  precipitate  of  primi- 
tive or  unconscious  beliefs,  suggests  to  this  day  a  kinship  between  matter 
(materia)  and  mother  (mater).™  Ishtar  and  Cybele,  Demeter  and  Ceres, 
Aphrodite  and  Venus  and  Freya— these  are  comparatively  late  forms  of 
the  ancient  goddesses  of  the  earth,  whose  fertility  constituted  the  bounty 
of  the  fields;  their  birth  and  marriage,  their  death  and  triumphant  resurrec- 
tion were  conceived  as  the  symbols  or  causes  of  the  sprouting,  the  decay, 


and  the  vernal  renewal  of  all  vegetation.  These  deities  reveal  by  their 
gender  the  primitive  association  of  agriculture  with  woman.  When  agri- 
culture became  the  dominant  mode  of  human  life,  the  vegetation  goddesses 
reigned  supreme.  Most  early  gods  were  of  the  gentler  sex;  they  were 
superseded  by  male  deities  presumably  as  a  heavenly  reflex  of  the  vic- 
torious patriarchal  family ."" 

Just  as  the  profound  poetry  of  the  primitive  mind  sees  a  secret  divinity 
in  the  growth  of  a  tree,  so  it  sees  a  supernatural  agency  in  the  conception 
or  birth  of  a  child.  The  "savage"  does  not  know  anything  about  the  ovum 
or  the  sperm;  he  sees  only  the  external  structures  involved,  and  deifies  them; 
they,  too,  have  spirits  in  them,  and  must  be  worshiped,  for  are  not  these 
mysteriously  creative  powers  the  most  marvelous  of  all?  In  them,  even 
more  than  in  the  soil,  the  miracle  of  fertility  and  growth  appears;  there- 
fore they  must  be  the  most  direct  embodiments  of  the  divine  potency. 
Nearly  all  ancient  peoples  worshiped  sex  in  some  form  and  ritual,  and  not 
the  lowest  people  but  the  highest  expressed  their  worship  most  com- 
pletely; we  shall  find  such  worship  in  Egypt  and  India,  Babylonia  and 
Assyria,  Greece  and  Rome.  The  sexual  character  and  functions  of  primi- 
tive deities  were  held  in  high  regard,114  not  through  any  obscenity  of  mind, 
but  through  a  passion  for  fertility  in  women  and  in  the  earth.  Certain 
animals,  like  the  bull  and  the  snake,  were  worshiped  as  apparently  possess- 
ing or  symbolizing  in  a  high  degree  the  divine  power  of  reproduction. 
The  snake  in  the  story  of  Eden  is  doubtless  a  phallic  symbol,  representing 
sex  as  the  origin  of  evil,  suggesting  sexual  awakening  as  the  beginning  of 
the  knowledge  of  good  and  evil,  and  perhaps  insinuating  a  certain  pro- 
verbial connection  between  mental  innocence  and  bliss.* 

There  is  hardly  an  animal  in  nature,  from  the  Egyptian  scarab  to  the  j 
Hindu  elephant,  that  has  not  somewhere  been  worshiped  as  a  god.  The  j 
Ojibwa  Indians  gave  the  name  of  totein  to  their  special  sacred  animal,  to 
the  clan  that  worshiped  it,  and  to  any  member  of  the  clan;  and  this  con- 
fused word  has  stumbled  into  anthropology  as  totemism,  denoting  vaguely 
any  worship  of  a  particular  object— usually  an  animal  or  a  plant— as 
especially  sacred  to  a  group.    Varieties  of  totemism  have  been  found 
scattered  over  apparently  unconnected  regions  of  the  earth,  from  the 
Indian  tribes  of  North  America  to  the  natives  of  Africa,  the  Dravidians 

*  Cf .  Chap,  xii,  §  vi  below. 


of  India,  and  the  tribes  of  Australia/1*  The  totem  as  a  religious  object 
helped  to  unify  the  tribe,  whose  members  thought  themselves  bound  up 
with  it  or  descended  from  it;  the  Iroquois,  in  semi-Darwinian  fashion, 
believed  that  they  were  sprung  from  the  primeval  mating  of  women  with 
bears,  wolves  and  deer.  The  totem— as  object  or  as  symbol— became  a 
useful  sign  of  relationship  and  distinction  for  primitive  peoples,  and  lapsed, 
in  the  course  of  secularization,  into  a  mascot  or  emblem,  like  the  lion  or 
eagle  of  nations,  the  elk  or  moose  of  our  fraternal  orders,  and  those  dumb 
animals  that  are  used  to  represent  the  elephantine  immobility  and  mulish 
obstreperousness  of  our  political  parties.  The  dove,  the  fish  and  the  lamb, 
in  the  symbolism  of  nascent  Christianity,  were  relics  of  totemic  adoration; 
even  the  lowly  pig  was  once  a  totem  of  prehistoric  Jews.116  In  most  cases 
the  totem  animal  was  tabu— i.e.,  forbidden,  not  to  be  touched;  under  cer- 
tain circumstances  it  might  be  eaten,  but  only  as  a  religious  act,  amounting 
to  the  ritual  eating  of  the  god.*  The  Gallas  of  Abyssinia  ate  in  solemn 
ceremony  the  fish  that  they  worshiped,  and  said,  "We  feel  the  spirit 
moving  within  us  as  we  eat."  The  good  missionaries  who  preached  the 
Gospel  to  the  Gallas  were  shocked  to  find  among  these  simple  folk  a  ritual 
so  strangely  similar  to  the  central  ceremony  of  the  Mass.111 

Probably  fear  was  the  origin  of  totemism,  as  of  so  many  cults;  men 
prayed  to  animals  because  the  animals  were  powerful,  and  had  to  be 
appeased.  As  hunting  cleared  the  woods  of  the  beasts,  and  gave  way  to 
the  comparative  security  of  agricultural  life,  the  worship  of  animals  de- 
clined, though  it  never  quite  disappeared;  and  the  ferocity  of  the  first 
human  gods  was  probably  carried  over  from  the  animal  deities  whom 
they  replaced.  The  transition  is  visible  in  those  famous  stories  of  meta- 
morphoses, or  changes  of  form,  that  are  found  in  the  Ovids  of  all  languages, 
and  tell  how  gods  had  been,  or  had  become,  animals.  Later  the  animal 
qualities  adhered  to  them  obstinately,  as  the  odor  of  the  stable  might  loyally 
attend  some  rural  Casanova;  even  in  the  complex  mind  of  Homer  glaucopis 
Athene  had  the  eyes  of  an  owl,  and  Here  boopis  had  the  eyes  of  a  cow. 
Egyptian  and  Babylonian  gods  or  ogres  with  the  face  of  a  human  being 

*  Freud,  with  characteristic  imaginativeness,  believes  that  the  totem  was  a  transfigured 
symbol  of  the  father,  revered  and  hated  for  his  omnipotence,  and  rebelliously  murdered 
and  eaten  by  his  sons.m  Durkheim  thought  that  the  totem  was  a  symbol  of  the  clan, 
revered  and  hated  (hence  held  "sacred"  and  "unclean")  by  the  individual  for  its  omnipo- 
tence and  irksome  dictatorship;  and  that  the  religious  attitude  was  originally  the  feeling 
of  the  individual  toward  the  authoritarian  group.1" 


and  the  body  of  a  beast  reveal  the  same  transition  and  make  the  same 
confession—that  many  human  gods  were  once  animal  deities.1* 

Most  human  gods,  however,  seem  to  have  been,  in  the  beginning,  merely 
idealized  dead  men.  The  appearance  of  the  dead  in  dreams  was  enough  to 
establish  the  worship  of  the  dead,  for  worship,  if  not  the  child,  is  at  least 
the  brother,  of  fear.  Men  who  had  been  powerful  during  life,  and  there- 
fore had  been  feared,  were  especially  likely  to  be  worshiped  after  their 
death.1*1  Among  several  primitive  peoples  the  word  for  god  actually  meant 
"a  dead  man";  even  today  the  English  word  spirit  and  the  German  word 
Geist  mean  both  ghost  and  soul.  The  Greeks  invoked  their  dead  precisely 
as  the  Christians  were  to  invoke  the  saints.183  So  strong  was  the  belief- 
first  generated  in  dreams— in  the  continued  life  of  the  dead,  that  primitive 
men  sometimes  sent  messages  to  them  in  the  most  literal  way;  in  one  tribe 
the  chief,  to  convey  such  a  letter,  recited  it  verbally  to  a  slave,  and  then 
cut  off  his  head  for  special  delivery;  if  the  chief  forgot  something  he  sent 
another  decapitated  slave  as  a  postscript.133 

Gradually  the  cult  of  the  ghost  became  the  worship  of  ancestors.  All 
the  dead  were  feared,  and  had  to  be  propitiated,  lest  they  should  curse  and 
blight  the  lives  of  the  living.  This  ancestor-worship  was  so  well  adapted 
to  promote  social  authority  and  continuity,  conservatism  and  order,  that 
it  soon  spread  to  every  region  of  the  earth.  It  flourished  in  Egypt,  Greece 
and  Rome,  and  survives  vigorously  in  China  and  Japan  today;  many  peoples 
worship  ancestors  but  no  god.124*  The  institution  held  the  family  power- 
fully together  despite  the  hostility  of  successive  generations,  and  provided 
an  invisible  structure  for  many  early  societies.  And  just  as  compulsion 
grew  into  conscience,  so  fear  graduated  into  love;  the  ritual  of  ancestor- 
worship,  probably  generated  by  terror,  later  aroused  the  sentiment  of  awe, 
and  finally  developed  piety  and  devotion.  It  is  the  tendency  of  gods  to 
begin  as  ogres  and  to  end  as  loving  fathers;  the  idol  passes  into  an  ideal 
as  the  growing  security,  peacefulness  and  moral  sense  of  the  worshipers 
pacify  and  transform  the  features  of  their  once  ferocious  deities.  The  slow 
progress  of  civilization  is  reflected  in  the  tardy  amiability  of  the  gods. 

The  idea  of  a  human  god  was  a  late  step  in  a  long  development;  it  was 
slowly  differentiated,  through  many  stages,  out  of  the  conception  of  an 
ocean  or  multitude  of  spirits  and  ghosts  surrounding  and  inhabiting  every- 

*  Relics  of  ancestor-worship  may  be  found  among  ourselves  in  our  care  and  visitation 
of  graves,  and  our  masses  and  prayers  for  the  dead. 


thing.  From  the  fear  and  worship  of  vague  and  formless  spirits  men  seem 
to  have  passed  to  adoration  of  celestial,  vegetative  and  sexual  powers,  then 
to  reverence  for  animals,  and  worship  of  ancestors.  The  notion  of  God 
as  Father  was  probably  derived  from  ancestor-worship;  it  meant  originally 
that  men  had  been  physically  begotten  by  the  gods.1*  In  primitive  theology 
there  is  no  sharp  or  generic  distinction  between  gods  and  men;  to  the 
early  Greeks,  for  example,  their  gods  were  ancestors,  and  their  ancestors 
were  gods.  A  further  development  came  when,  out  of  the  medley  of 
ancestors,  certain  men  and  women  who  had  been  especially  distinguished 
were  singled  out  for  clearer  deification;  so  the  greater  kings  became  gods, 
sometimes  even  before  their  death.  But  with  this  development  we  reach 
the  historic  civilizations. 

3.   The  Methods  of  Religion 

Magic—Vegetation    rites— Festivals    of    license—Myths    of    the 

resurrected    god  — Magic    and    superstition  —  Magic    and 

science— Priests 

Having  conceived  a  world  of  spirits,  whose  nature  and  intent  were 
unknown  to  him,  primitive  man  sought  to  propitiate  them  and  to  enlist 
them  in  his  aid.  Hence  to  animism,  which  is  the  essence  of  primitive  re- 
ligion, was  added  magic,  which  is  the  soul  of  primitive  ritual.  The  Poly- 
nesians recognized  a  very  ocean  of  magic  power,  which  they  called  mana; 
the  magician,  they  thought,  merely  tapped  this  infinite  supply  of  miraculous 
capacity.  The  methods  by  which  the  spirits,  and  later  the  gods,  were  sub- 
orned to  human  purposes  were  for  the  most  part  "sympathetic  magic"— a 
desired  action  was  suggested  to  the  deities  by  a  partial  or  imitative  perform- 
ance of  the  action  by  men.  To  make  rain  fall  some  primitive  magicians 
poured  water  out  upon  the  ground,  preferably  from  a  tree.  The  Kaffirs, 
threatened  by  drought,  asked  a  missionary  to  go  into  the  fields  with  an 
opened  umbrella."8  In  Sumatra  a  barren  woman  made  an  image  of  a  child 
and  held  it  in  her  lap,  hoping  thereby  to  become  pregnant.  In  the  Babar 
Archipelago  the  would-be  mother  fashioned  a  doll  out  of  red  cotton,  pre- 
tended to  suckle  it,  and  repeated  a  magic  formula;  then  she  sent  word  through 
the  village  that  she  was  pregnant,  and  her  friends  came  to  congratulate  her; 
only  a  very  obstinate  reality  could  refuse  to  emulate  this  imagination. 
Among  the  Dyaks  of  Borneo  the  magician,  to  ease  the  pains  of  a  woman 
about  to  deliver,  would  go  through  the  contortions  of  childbirth  himself, 


as  a  magic  suggestion  to  the  foetus  to  come  forth;  sometimes  the  magician 
slowly  rolled  a  stone  down  his  belly  and  dropped  it  to  the  ground,  in  the 
hope  that  the  backward  child  would  imitate  it.  In  the  Middle  Ages  a 
spell  was  cast  upon  an  enemy  by  sticking  pins  into  a  waxen  image  of 
hirti;m  the  Peruvian  Indians  burned  people  in  effigy,  and  called  it  burning 
the  soul."8  Even  the  modern  mob  is  not  above  such  primitive  magic. 

These  methods  of  suggestion  by  example  were  applied  especially  to  the 
fertilization  of  the  soil.  Zulu  medicine-men  fried  the  genitals  of  a  man 
who  had  died  in  full  vigor,  ground  the  mixture  into  a  powder,  and  strewed 
it  over  the  fields."9  Some  peoples  chose  a  King  and  Queen  of  the  May, 
or  a  Whitsun  bridegroom  and  bride,  and  married  them  publicly,  so  that 
the  soil  might  take  heed  and  flower  forth.  In  certain  localities  the  rite 
included  the  public  consummation  of  the  marriage,  so  that  Nature,  though 
she  might  be  nothing  but  a  dull  clod,  would  have  no  excuse  for  misunder- 
standing her  duty.  In  Java  the  peasants  and  their  wives,  to  ensure  the 
fertility  of  the  rice-fields,  mated  in  the  midst  of  them.130  For  primitive 
men  did  not  conceive  the  growth  of  the  soil  in  terms  of  nitrogen;  they 
thought  of  it— apparently  without  knowing  of  sex  in  plants— in  the  same 
terms  as  those  whereby  they  interpreted  the  fruitfulness  of  woman;  our 
very  terms  recall  their  poetic  faith. 

Festivals  of  promiscuity,  coming  in  nearly  all  cases  at  the  season  of 
sowing,  served  partly  as  a  moratorium  on  morals  (recalling  the  compara- 
tive freedom  of  sex  relations  in  earlier  days),  partly  as  a  means  of  fertilizing 
the  wives  of  sterile  men,  and  partly  as  a  ceremony  of  suggestion  to  the 
earth  in  spring  to  abandon  her  wintry  reserve,  accept  the  proffered  seed, 
and  prepare  to  deliver  herself  of  a  generous  litter  of  food.  Such  festivals 
appear  among  a  great  number  of  nature  peoples,  but  particularly  among 
the  Cameroons  of  the  Congo,  the  Kaffirs,  the  Hottentots  and  the  Bantus. 
"Their  harvest  festivals,"  says  the  Reverend  H.  Rowley  of  the  Bantus, 

are  akin  in  character  to  the  feasts  of  Bacchus.  ...  It  is  impossible 
to  witness  them  without  being  ashamed.  .  .  .  Not  only  is  full  sexual 
license  permitted  to  the  neophytes,  and  indeed  in  most  cases  en- 
joined, but  any  visitor  attending  the  festival  is  encouraged  to  indulge 
in  licentiousness.  Prostitution  is  freely  indulged  in,  and  adultery 
is  not  viewed  with  any  sense  of  heinousness,  on  account  of  the 
surroundings.  No  man  attending  the  festival  is  allowed  to  have 
intercourse  with  his  wife.m 


Similar  festivals  appear  in  the  historic  civilizations:  in  the  Bacchic  cele- 
brations of  Greece,  the  Saturnalia  of  Rome,  the  Fete  des  Fous  in  medieval 
France,  May  Day  in  England,  and  the  Carnival  or  Mardi  Gras  of  con- 
temporary ways. 

Here  and  there,  as  among  the  Pawnees  and  the  Indians  of  Guayaquil, 
vegetation  rites  took  on  a  less  attractive  form.  A  man— or,  in  later  and 
milder  days,  an  animal— was  sacrificed  to  the  earth  at  sowing  time,  so  that 
it  might  be  fertilized  by  his  blood.  When  the  harvest  came  it  was  inter- 
preted as  the  resurrection  of  the  dead  man;  the  victim  was  given,  before 
and  after  his  death,  the  honors  of  a  god;  and  from  this  origin  arose,  in  a 
thousand  forms,  the  almost  universal  myth  of  a  god  dying  for  his  people, 
and  then  returning  triumphantly  to  life."1  Poetry  embroidered  magic, 
and  transformed  it  into  theology.  Solar  myths  mingled  harmoniously  with 
vegetation  rites,  and  the  legend  of  a  god  dying  and  reborn  came  to  apply 
not  only  to  the  winter  death  and  spring  revival  of  the  earth  but  to  the 
autumnal  and  vernal  equinoxes,  and  the  waning  and  waxing  of  the  day. 
For  the  coming  of  night  was  merely  a  part  of  this  tragic  drama;  daily  the 
sun-god  was  born  and  died;  every  sunset  was  a  crucifixion,  and  every 
sunrise  was  a  resurrection. 

Human  sacrifice,  of  which  we  have  here  but  one  of  many  varieties, 
seems  to  have  been  honored  at  some  time  or  another  by  almost  every 
people.  On  the  island  of  Carolina  in  the  Gulf  of  Mexico  a  great  hollow 
metal  statue  of  an  old  Mexican  deity  has  been  found,  within  which  still 
lay  the  remains  of  human  beings  apparently  burned  to  death  as  an  offering 
to  the  god.188  Every  one  knows  of  the  Moloch  to  whom  the  Phoenicians, 
the  Carthaginians,  and  occasionally  other  Semites,  offered  human  victims. 
In  our  own  time  the  custom  has  been  practised  in  Rhodesia.184  Probably  it 
was  bound  up  with  cannibalism;  men  thought  that  the  gods  had  tastes  like 
their  own.  As  religious  beliefs  change  more  slowly  than  other  creeds,  and 
rites  change  more  slowly  than  beliefs,  this  divine  cannibalism  survived  after 
human  cannibalism  disappeared.13*  Slowly,  however,  evolving  morals 
changed  even  religious  rites;  the  gods  imitated  the  increasing  gentleness  of 
their  worshipers,  and  resigned  themselves  to  accepting  animal  instead  of 
human  meat;  a  hind  took  the  place  of  Iphigenia,  and  a  ram  was  substituted 
for  Abraham's  son.  In  time  the  gods  did  not  receive  even  the  animal;  the 
priests  liked  savory  food,  ate  all  the  edible  parts  of  the  sacrificial  victim 
themselves,  and  offered  upon  the  altar  only  the  entrails  and  the  bones.18* 


Since  early  man  believed  that  he  acquired  the  powers  of  whatever 
organism  he  consumed,  he  came  naturally  to  the  conception  of  eating  the 
god.  In  many  cases  he  ate  the  flesh  and  drank  the  blood  of  the  human  god 
whom  he  had  deified  and  fattened  for  the  sacrifice.  When,  through  in- 
creased continuity  in  the  food-supply,  he  became  more  humane,  he  sub- 
stituted images  for  the  victim,  and  was  content  to  eat  these.  In  ancient 
Mexico  an  image  of  the  god  was  made  of  grain,  seeds  and  vegetables,  was 
kneaded  with  the  blood  of  boys  sacrificed  for  the  purpose,  and  was  then 
consumed  as  a  religious  ceremony  of  eating  the  god.  Similar  ceremonies 
have  been  found  in  many  primitive  tribes.  Usually  the  participant  was 
required  to  fast  before  eating  the  sacred  image;  and  the  priest  turned 
the  image  into  the  god  by  the  power  of  magic  f ormulas.187 

Magic  begins  in  superstition,  and  ends  in  science.  A  wilderness  of  weird 
beliefs  came  out  of  animism,  and  resulted  in  many  strange  formulas  and 
rites.  The  Kukis  encouraged  themselves  in  war  by  the  notion  that  all  the 
enemies  they  slew  would  attend  them  as  slaves  in  the  after  life.  On  the 
other  hand  a  Bantu,  when  he  had  slain  his  foe,  shaved  his  own  head  and 
anointed  himself  with  goat-dung,  to  prevent  the  spirit  of  the  dead  man 
from  returning  to  pester  him.  Almost  all  primitive  peoples  believed  in  the 
efficacy  of  curses,  and  the  dcstructiveness  of  the  "evil  eye."138  Australian 
natives  were  sure  that  the  curse  of  a  potent  magician  could  kill  at  a  hundred 
miles.  The  belief  in  witchcraft  began  early  in  human  history,  and  has 
never  quite  disappeared.  Fetishism*— the  worship  of  idols  or  other  objects 
as  having  magic  power— is  still  more  ancient  and  indestructible.  Since 
many  amulets  are  limited  to  a  special  power,  some  peoples  are  heavily 
laden  with  a  variety  of  them,  so  that  they  may  be  ready  for  any  emerg- 
ency.180 Relics  are  a  later  and  contemporary  example  of  fetishes  possessing 
magic  powers;  half  the  population  of  Europe  wear  some  pendant  or  amulet 
which  gives  them  supernatural  protection  or  aid.  At  every  step  the  history 
of  civilization  teaches  us  how  slight  and  superficial  a  structure  civilization 
is,  and  how  precariously  it  is  poised  upon  the  apex  of  a  never-extinct 
volcano  of  poor  and  oppressed  barbarism,  superstition  and  ignorance. 
Modernity  is  a  cap  superimposed  upon  the  Middle  Ages,  which  always 

The  philosopher  accepts  gracefully  this  human  need  of  supernatural 

•  From  the  Portuguese  feitico,  fabricated  or  factitious. 


aid  and  comfort,  and  consoles  himself  by  observing  that  just  as  animism 
generates  poetry,  so  magic  begets  drama  and  science.  Frazer  has  shown, 
with  the  exaggeration  natural  to  a  brilliant  innovator,  that  the  glories  of 
science  have  their  roots  in  the  absurdities  of  magic.  For  since  magic  often 
failed,  it  became  of  advantage  to  the  magician  to  discover  natural  opera- 
tions by  which  he  might  help  supernatural  forces  to  produce  the  desired 
event.  Slowly  the  natural  means  came  to  predominate,  even  though  the 
magician,  to  preserve  his  standing  with  the  people,  concealed  these  natural 
means  as  well  as  he  could,  and  gave  the  credit  to  supernatural  magic- 
much  as  our  own  people  often  credit  natural  cures  to  magical  prescriptions 
and  pills.  In  this  way  magic  gave  birth  to  the  physician,  the  chemist,  the 
metallurgist,  and  the  astronomer.140 

More  immediately,  however,  magic  made  the  priest.  Gradually,  as 
religious  rites  became  more  numerous  and  complex,  they  outgrew  the 
knowledge  and  competence  of  the  ordinary  man,  and  generated  a  special 
class  which  gave  most  of  its  time  to  the  functions  and  ceremonies  of  re- 
ligion. The  priest  as  magician  had  access,  through  trance,  inspiration  or 
esoteric  prayer,  to  the  will  of  the  spirits  or  gods,  and  could  change  that 
will  for  human  purposes.  Since  such  knowledge  and  skill  seemed  to  primi- 
tive men  the  most  valuable  of  all,  and  supernatural  forces  were  conceived 
to  affect  man's  fate  at  every  turn,  the  power  of  the  clergy  became  as 
great  as  that  of  the  state;  and  from  the  latest  societies  to  modern  times  the 
priest  has  vied  and  alternated  with  the  warrior  in  dominating  and  dis- 
ciplining men.  Let  Egypt,  Judea  and  medieval  Europe  suffice  as  instances. 

The  priest  did  not  create  religion,  he  merely  used  it,  as  a  statesman  uses 
the  impulses  and  customs  of  mankind;  religion  arises  not  out  of  sacerdotal 
invention  or  chicanery,  but  out  of  the  persistent  wonder,  fear,  insecurity, 
hopefulness  and  loneliness  of  men.  The  priest  did  harm  by  tolerating 
superstition  and  monopolizing  certain  forms  of  knowledge;  but  he  limited 
and  often  discouraged  superstition,  he  gave  the  people  the  rudiments  of 
education,  he  acted  as  a  repository  and  vehicle  for  the  growing  cultural 
heritage  of  the  race,  he  consoled  the  weak  in  their  inevitable  exploitation 
by  the  strong,  and  he  became  the  agent  through  which  religion  nourished 
art  and  propped  up  with  supernatural  aid  the  precarious  structure  of 
human  morality.  If  he  had  not  existed  the  people  would  have  invented  him. 


4.    The  Moral  Function  of  Religion 

Religion  and  government  —  Tabu—Sexual  tabus  —  The  lag  of 
religion— Secularization 

Religion  supports  morality  by  two  means  chiefly:  myth  and  tabu,  Myth 
creates  the  supernatural  creed  through  which  celestial  sanctions  may  be 
given  to  forms  of  conduct  socially  (or  sacerdotally)  desirable;  heavenly 
hopes  and  terrors  inspire  the  individual  to  put  up  with  restraints  placed 
upon  him  by  his  masters  and  his  group.  Man  is  not  naturally  obedient, 
gentle,  or  chaste;  and  next  to  that  ancient  compulsion  which  finally  gen- 
erates conscience,  nothing  so  quietly  and  continuously  conduces  to  these 
uncongenial  virtues  as  the  fear  of  the  gods.  The  institutions  of  property 
and  marriage  rest  in  some  measure  upon  religious  sanctions,  and  tend  to 
lose  their  vigor  in  ages  of  unbelief.  Government  itself,  which  is  the  most 
unnatural  and  necessary  of  social  mechanisms,  has  usually  required  the 
support  of  piety  and  the  priest,  as  clever  heretics  like  Napoleon  and 
Mussolini  soon  discovered;  and  hence  "a  tendency  to  theocracy  is  inci- 
dental to  all  constitutions."141  The  power  of  the  primitive  chief  is  increased 
by  the  aid  of  magic  and  sorcery;  and  even  our  own  government  derives 
some  sanctity  from  its  annual  recognition  of  the  Pilgrims'  God. 

The  Polynesians  gave  the  word  tabu  to  prohibitions  sanctioned  by  re- 
ligion. In  the  more  highly  developed  of  primitive  societies  such  tabus 
took  the  place  of  what  under  civilization  became  laws.  Their  form  was 
usually  negative:  certain  acts  and  objects  were  declared  "sacred"  or  "un- 
clean"; and  the  two  words  meant  in  effect  one  warning:  untouchable.  So 
the  Ark  of  the  Covenant  was  tabu,  and  Uzzah  was  struck  dead,  we  arc 
told,  for  touching  it  to  save  it  from  falling.112  Diodorus  would  have  us 
believe  that  the  ancient  Egyptians  ate  one  another  in  famine,  rather  than 
violate  the  tabu  against  eating  the  animal  totem  of  the  tribe.143  In  most 
primitive  societies  countless  things  were  tabu;  certain  words  and  names 
were  never  to  be  pronounced,  and  certain  days  and  seasons  were  tabu  in 
the  sense  that  work  was  forbidden  at  such  times.  All  the  knowledge,  and 
some  of  the  ignorance,  of  primitive  men  about  food  were  expressed  in 
dietetic  tabus;  and  hygiene  was  inculcated  by  religion  rather  than  by 
science  or  secular  medicine. 

The  favorite  object  of  primitive  tabu  was  woman.  A  thousand  super- 


stitions  made  her,  every  now  and  then,  untouchable,  perilous,  and  "un- 
clean." The  moulders  of  the  world's  myths  were  unsuccessful  husbands, 
for  they  agreed  that  woman  was  the  root  of  all  evil;  this  was  a  view 
sacred  not  only  to  Hebraic  and  Christian  tradition,  but  to  a  hundred  pagan 
mythologies.  The  strictest  of  primitive  tabus  was  laid  upon  the  men- 
struating woman;  any  man  or  thing  that  touched  her  at  such  times  lost 
virtue  or  usefulness.1"  The  Macusi  of  British  Guiana  forbade  women  to 
bathe  at  their  periods  lest  they  should  poison  the  waters;  and  they  forbade 
them  to  go  into  the  forests  on  these  occasions,  lest  they  be  bitten  by 
enamored  snakes.146  Even  childbirth  was  unclean,  and  after  it  the  mother 
was  to  purify  herself  with  laborious  religious  rites.  Sexual  relations,  in 
most  primitive  peoples,  were  tabu  not  only  in  the  menstrual  period  but 
whenever  the  woman  was  pregnant  or  nursing.  Probably  these  prohibi- 
tions were  originated  by  women  themselves,  out  of  their  own  good  sense 
and  for  their  own  protection  and  convenience;  but  origins  are  easily 
forgotten,  and  soon  woman  found  herself  "impure"  and  "unclean."  In 
the  end  she  accepted  man's  point  of  view,  and  felt  shame  in  her  periods, 
even  in  her  pregnancy.  Out  of  such  tabus  as  a  partial  source  came  modesty, 
.the  sense  of  sin,  the  view  of  sex  as  unclean,  asceticism,  priestly  celibacy, 
and  the  subjection  of  woman. 

Religion  is  not  the  basis  of  morals,  but  an  aid  to  them;  conceivably  they 
could  exist  without  it,  and  not  infrequently  they  have  progressed  against 
its  indifference  or  its  obstinate  resistance.  In  the  earliest  societies,  and  in 
some  later  ones,  morals  appear  at  times  to  be  quite  independent  of  religion; 
religion  then  concerns  itself  not  with  the  ethics  of  conduct  but  with  magic, 
ritual  and  sacrifice,  and  the  good  man  is  defined  in  terms  of  ceremonies 
dutifully  performed  and  faithfully  financed.  As  a  rule  religion  sanctions 
not  any  absolute  good  (since  there  is  none),  but  those  norms  of  conduct 
which  have  established  themselves  by  force  of  economic  and  social  cir- 
cumstance; like  law  it  looks  to  the  past  for  its  judgments,  and  is  apt  to  be 
left  behind  as  conditions  change  and  morals  alter  with  them.  So  the  Greeks 
learned  to  abhor  incest  while  their  mythologies  still  honored  incestuous 
gods;  the  Christians  practised  monogamy  while  their  Bible  legalized  polyg- 
amy; slavery  was  abolished  while  dominies  sanctified  it  with  unimpeach- 
able Biblical  authority;  and  in  our  own  day  the  Church  fights  heroically 
for  a  moral  code  that  the  Industrial  Revolution  has  obviously  doomed. 
In  the  end  terrestrial  forces  prevail;  morals  slowly  adjust  themselves  to 


economic  invention,  and  religion  reluctantly  adjusts  itself  to  moral  change.* 
The  moral  function  of  religion  is  to  conserve  established  values,  rather 
than  to  create  new  ones. 

Hence  a  certain  tension  between  religion  and  society  marks  the  higher 
stages  of  every  civilization.  Religion  begins  by  offering  magical  aid  to 
harassed  and  bewildered  men;  it  culminates  by  giving  to  a  people  that  unity 
of  morals  and  belief  which  seems  so  favorable  to  statesmanship  and  art; 
it  ends  by  fighting  suicidally  in  the  lost  cause  of  the  past.  For  as  knowledge 
grows  or  alters  continually,  it  clashes  with  mythology  and  theology,  which 
change  with  geological  leisureliness.  Priestly  control  of  arts  and  letters  is 
then  felt  as  a  galling  shackle  or  hateful  barrier,  and  intellectual  history 
takes  on  the  character  of  a  "conflict  between  science  and  religion."  In- 
stitutions which  were  at  first  in  the  hands  of  the  clergy,  like  law  and 
punishment,  education  and  morals,  marriage  and  divorce,  tend  to  escape 
from  ecclesiastical  control,  and  become  secular,  perhaps  profane.  The 
intellectual  classes  abandon  the  ancient  theology  and— after  some  hesita- 
tion—the moral  code  allied  with  it;  literature  and  philosophy  become  anti- 
clerical. The  movement  of  liberation  rises  to  an  exuberant  worship  of 
reason,  and  falls  to  a  paralyzing  disillusionment  with  every  dogma  and 
every  idea.  Conduct,  deprived  of  its  religious  supports,  deteriorates  into 
epicurean  chaos;  and  life  itself,  shorn  of  consoling  faith,  becomes  a  burden 
alike  to  conscious  poverty  and  to  weary  wealth.  In  the  end  a  society  and 
its  religion  tend  to  fall  together,  like  body  and  soul,  in  a  harmonious  death. 
Meanwhile  among  the  oppressed  another  myth  arises,  gives  new  form  to 
human  hope,  new  courage  to  human  effort,  and  after  centuries  of  chaos 
builds  another  civilization. 

*  Cf.  the   contemporary   causation   of  birth   control   by  urban   industrialism,   and   the 
gradual  acceptance  of  such  control  by  the  Church. 


The  Mental  Elements  of  Civilization 


Language— Its  animal  background— Its  human  origins— Its  devel- 
opment—Its results— Education— Initiation— Writing— Poetry 

IN  the  beginning  was  the  word,  for  with  it  man  became  man.  Without 
those  strange  noises  called  common  nouns,  thought  was  limited  to  in- 
dividual objects  or  experiences  sensorily— for  the  most  part  visually— re- 
membered or  conceived;  presumably  it  could  not  think  of  classes  as  distinct 
from  individual  things,  nor  of  qualities  as  distinct  from  objects,  nor  of 
objects  as  distinct  from  their  qualities.  Without  words  as  class  names  one 
might  think  of  this  man,  or  that  man,  or  that  man;  one  could  not  think  of 
Man,  for  the  eye  sees  not  Man  but  only  men,  not  classes  but  particular 
things.  The  beginning  of  humanity  came  when  some  freak  or  crank,  half 
animal  and  half  man,  squatted  in  a  cave  or  in  a  tree,  cracking  his  brain 
to  invent  the  first  Qommon  noun,  the  first  sound-sign  that  would  signify 
a  group  of  like  objects:  house  that  would  mean  all  houses,  man  that  would 
mean  all  men,  light  that  would  mean  every  light  that  ever  shone  on  land 
or  sea.  From  that  moment  the  mental  development  of  the  race  opened 
upon  a  new  and  endless  road.  For  words  are  to  thought  what  tools  are  to 
work;  the  product  depends  largely  on  the  growth  of  the  tools.1 

Since  all  origins  are  guesses,  and  de  fontibus  non  disputandum,  the 
imagination  has  free  play  in  picturing  the  beginnings  of  speech.  Perhaps 
the  first  form  of  language— which  may  be  defined  as  communication 
through  signs— was  the  love-call  of  one  animal  to  another.  In  this  sense 
the  jungle,  the  woods  and  the  prairie  are  alive  with  speech.  Cries  of  warn- 
ing or  of  terror,  the  call  of  the  mother  to  the  brood,  the  cluck  and  cackle 
of  euphoric  or  reproductive  ecstasy,  the  parliament  of  chatter  from  tree 
to  tree,  indicate  the  busy  preparations  made  by  the  animal  kingdom  for 
the  august  speech  of  man.  A  wild  girl  found  living  among  the  animals 
in  a  forest  near  Chalons,  France,  had  no  other  speech  than  hideous  screeches 
and  howls.  These  living  noises  of  the  woods  seem  meaningless  to  our 



provincial  ear;  we  are  like  the  philosophical  poodle  Riquet,  who  says  of 
M.  Bergeret:  "Everything  uttered  by  my  voice  means  something;  but 
from  my  master's  mouth  comes  much  nonsense."  Whitman  and  Craig 
discovered  a  strange  correlation  between  the  actions  and  the  exclamations 
of  pigeons;  Dupont  learned  to  distinguish  twelve  specific  sounds  used  by 
fowl  and  doves,  fifteen  by  dogs,  and  twenty-two  by  horned  cattle;  Garner 
found  that  the  apes  carried  on  their  endless  gossip  with  at  least  twenty 
different  sounds,  plus  a  repertory  of  gestures;  and  from  these  modest 
vocabularies  a  few  steps  bring  us  to  the  three  hundred  words  that  suffice 
some  unpretentious  men.1 

Gesture  seems  primary,  speech  secondary,  in  the  earlier  transmission 
of  thought;  and  when  speech  fails,  gesture  comes  again  to  the  fore.  Among 
the  North  American  Indians,  who  had  countless  dialects,  married  couples 
were  often  derived  from  different  tribes,  and  maintained  communication 
and  accord  by  gestures  rather  than  speech;  one  couple  known  to  Lewis 
Morgan  used  silent  signs  for  three  years.  Gesture  was  so  prominent  irt 
some  Indian  languages  that  the  Arapahos,  like  some  modern  peoples, 
could  hardly  converse  in  the  dark.8  Perhaps  the  first  human  words  were 
interjections,  expressions  of  emotion  as  among  animals;  then  demonstrative 
words  accompanying  gestures  of  direction;  and  imitative  sounds  that  came 
in  time  to  be  the  names  of  the  objects  or  actions  that  they  simulated. 
Even  after  indefinite  millenniums  of  linguistic  changes  and  complications 
every  language  still  contains  hundreds  of  imitative  words— roar,  rush, 
murmur,  tremor,  giggle,  groan,  hiss,  heave,  hum,  cackle,  etc.*  The  Tecuna 
tribe,  of  ancient  Brazil,  had  a  perfect  verb  for  sneeze:  haitschu.'  Out  of 
such  beginnings,  perhaps,  came  the  root-words  of  every  language.  Renan 
reduced  all  Hebrew  words  to  five  hundred  roots,  and  Skeat  nearly  all 
European  words  to  some  four  hundred  stems.! 

*  Such  onomatopoeia  still  remains  a  refuge  in  linguistic  emergencies.  The  Englishman 
eating  his  first  meal  in  China,  and  wishing  to  know  the  character  of  the  meat  he  was  eat- 
ing, inquired,  with  Anglo-Saxon  dignity  and  reserve,  "Quack,  quack?"  To  which  the 
Chinaman,  shaking  his  head,  answered  cheerfully,  "Bow-wow."4 

tE.g.,  divine  is  from  Latin  divus,  which  is  from  deus,  Greek  theos,  Sanskrit  deva, 
meaning  god;  in  the  Gypsy  tongue  the  word  for  god,  by  a  strange  prank,  becomes  devel. 
Historically  goes  back  to  the  Sanskrit  root  vid,  to  know;  Greek  oida,  Latin  video  (see), 
French  voir  (sec),  German  ivissen  (know),  English  to  wit;  plus  the  suffixes  tor  (as  in 
author,  praetor ,  rhetor),  ic,  al,  and  ly  (=like).  Again,  the  Sanskrit  root  or,  to  plough, 
gives  the  Latin  arare,  Russian  orati,  English  to  ear  the  land,  arable^  art,  oar,  and  perhaps 
the  word  Aryan— the  ploughers.* 


The  languages  of  nature  peoples  are  not  necessarily  primitive  in  any  sense 
of  simplicity;  many  of  them  are  simple  in  vocabulary  and  structure,  but 
some  of  them  are  as  complex  and  wordy  as  our  own,  and  more  highly  or- 
ganized than  Chinese.7  Nearly  all  primitive  tongues,  however,  limit  them- 
selves to  the  sensual  and  particular,  and  arc  uniformly  poor  in  general  or 
abstract  terms.  So  the  Australian  natives  had  a  name  for  a  dog's  tail,  and  an- 
other name  for  a  cow's  tail;  but  they  had  no  name  for  tail  in  general.*  The 
Tasmanians  had  separate  names  for  specific  trees,  but  no  general  name  for 
tree;  the  Choctaw  Indians  had  names  for  the  black  oak,  the  white  oak  and  the 
red  oak,  but  no  name  for  oak,  much  less  for  tree.  Doubtless  many  gen- 
erations passed  before  the  proper  noun  ended  in  the  common  noun.  In 
many  tribes  there  are  no  separate  words  for  the  color  as  distinct  from  the 
colored  object;  no  words  for  such  abstractions  as  tone,  sex,  species,  space, 
spirit,  instinct,  reason,  quantity,  hope,  fear,  matter,  consciousness,  etc.* 
Such  abstract  terms  seem  to  grow  in  a  reciprocal  relation  of  cause  and 
effect  with  the  development  of  thought;  they  become  the  tools  of  subtlety 
and  the  symbols  of  civilization. 

Bearing  so  many  gifts  to  men,  words  seemed  to  them  a  divine  boon  and 
a  sacred  thing;  they  became  the  matter  of  magic  formulas,  most  reverenced 
when  most  meaningless;  and  they  still  survive  as  sacred  in  mysteries  where, 
e.g.,  the  Word  becomes  Flesh.  They  made  not  only  for  clearer  thinking, 
but  for  better  social  organization;  they  cemented  the  generations  mentally, 
by  providing  a  better  medium  for  education  and  the  transmission  of  knowl- 
edge and  the  arts;  they  created  a  new  organ  of  communication,  by  which  one 
doctrine  or  belief  could  mold  a  people  into  homogeneous  unity.  They  opened 
new  roads  for  the  transport  and  traffic  of  ideas,  and  immensely  accelerated 
the  tempo,  and  enlarged  the  range  and  content,  of  life.  Has  any  other  in- 
vention ever  equaled,  in  power  and  glory,  the  common  noun? 

Next  to  the  enlargement  of  thought  the  greatest  of  these  gifts  of  speech 
was  education.  Civilization  is  an  accumulation,  a  treasure-house  of  arts 
and  wisdom,  manners  and  morals,  from  which  the  individual,  in  his  devel- 
opment, draws  nourishment  for  his  mental  life;  without  that  periodical 
reacquisition  of  the  racial  heritage  by  each  generation,  civilization  would 
die  a  sudden  death.  It  owes  its  life  to  education. 

Education  had  few  frills  among  primitive  peoples;  to  them,  as  to  the 
animals,  education  was  chiefly  the  transmission  of  skills  and  the  training  of 
character;  it  was  a  wholesome  relation  of  apprentice  to  master  in  the  ways 
of  life.  This  direct  and  practical  tutelage  encouraged  a  rapid  growth  in  the 


primitive  child.  In  the  Omaha  tribes  the  boy  of  ten  had  already  learned 
nearly  all  the  arts  of  his  father,  and  was  ready  for  life;  among  the  Aleuts 
the  boy  of  ten  often  set  up  his  own  establishment,  and  sometimes  took  a 
wife;  in  Nigeria  children  of  six  or  eight  would  leave  the  parental  house, 
build  a  hut,  and  provide  for  themselves  by  hunting  and  fishing.10  Usually  this 
educational  process  came  to  an  end  with  the  beginning  of  sexual  life;  the 
precocious  maturity  was  followed  by  an  early  stagnation.  The  boy,  under 
such  conditions,  was  adult  at  twelve  and  old  at  twenty-five.11  This  docs  not 
mean  that  the  "savage"  had  the  mind  of  a  child;  it  only  means  that  he  had 
neither  the  needs  nor  the  opportunities  of  the  modern  child;  he  did  not 
enjoy  that  long  and  protected  adolescence  which  allows  a  more  nearly  com- 
plete transmission  of  the  cultural  heritage,  and  a  greater  variety  and  flexibility 
of  adaptive  reactions  to  an  artificial  and  unstable  environment. 

The  environment  of  the  natural  man  was  comparatively  permanent;  it 
called  not  for  mental  agility  but  for  courage  and  character.  The  primitive 
father  put  his  trust  in  character,  as  modern  education  has  put  its  trust  in 
intellect;  he  was  concerned  to  make  not  scholars  but  men.  Hence  the  initia- 
tion rites  which,  among  nature  peoples,  ordinarily  marked  the  arrival  of  the 
youth  at  maturity  and  membership  in  the  tribe,  were  designed  to  test  cour- 
age rather  than  knowledge;  their  function  was  to  prepare  the  young  for  the 
hardships  of  war  and  the  responsibilities  of  marriage,  while  at  the  same  time 
they  indulged  the  old  in  the  delights  of  inflicting  pain.  Some  of  these  initia- 
tion tests  are  "too  terrible  and  too  revolting  to  be  seen  or  told.""  Among 
the  Kaffirs  (to  take  a  mild  example)  the  boys  who  were  candidates  for  ma- 
turity were  given  arduous  work  by  day,  and  were  prevented  from  sleeping 
by  night,  until  they  dropped  from  exhaustion;  and  to  make  the  matter 
more  certain  they  were  scourged  "frequently  and  mercilessly  until  blood 
spurted  from  them."  A  considerable  proportion  of  the  boys  died  as  a  re- 
sult; but  this  seems  to  have  been  looked  upon  philosophically  by  the  elders, 
perhaps  as  an  auxiliary  anticipation  of  natural  selection."  Usually  these 
initiation  ceremonies  marked  the  end  of  adolescence  and  the  preparation  for 
marriage;  and  the  bride  insisted  that  the  bridegroom  should  prove  his 
capacity  for  suffering.  In  many  tribes  of  the  Congo  the  initiation  rite 
centered  about  circumcision;  if  the  youth  winced  or  cried  aloud  his  relatives 
were  thrashed,  and  his  promised  bride,  who  had  watched  the  ceremony  care- 
fully, rejected  him  scornfully,  on  the  ground  that  she  did  not  want  a  girl 
for  her  husband.14 

Little  or  no  use  was  made  of  writing  in  primitive  education.  Nothing 
surprises  the  natural  man  so  much  as  the  ability  of  Europeans  to  com- 
municate with  one  another,  over  great  distances,  by  making  black  scratches 


upon  a  piece  of  paper."  Many  tribes  have  learned  to  write  by  imitating 
their  civilized  exploiters;  but  some,  as  in  northern  Africa,  have  remained 
letterless  despite  five  thousand  years  of  intermittent  contact  with  literate 
nations.  Simple  tribes  living  for  the  most  part  in  comparative  isolation, 
and  knowing  the  happiness  of  having  no  history,  felt  little  need  for  writing. 
Their  memories  were  all  the  stronger  for  having  no  written  aids;  they 
learned  and  retained,  and  passed  on  to  their  children  by  recitation,  what- 
ever seemed  necessary  in  the  way  of  historical  record  and  cultural  trans- 
mission. It  was  probably  by  committing  such  oral  traditions  and  folk-lore 
to  writing  that  literature  began.  Doubtless  the  invention  of  writing  was 
met  with  a  long  and  holy  opposition,  as  something  calculated  to  undermine 
morals  and  the  race.  An  Egyptian  legend  relates  that  when  the  god  Thoth 
revealed  his  discovery  of  the  art  of  writing  to  King  Thamos,  the  good 
King  denounced  it  as  an  enemy  of  civilization.  "Children  and  young 
people,"  protested  the  monarch,  "who  had  hitherto  been  forced  to  apply 
themselves  diligently  to  learn  and  retain  whatever  was  taught  them,  would 
cease  to  apply  themselves,  and  would  neglect  to  exercise  their  memories."1" 
Of  course  we  can  only  guess  at  the  origins  of  this  wonderful  toy.  Per- 
haps, as  we  shall  sec,  it  was  a  by-product  of  pottery,  and  began  as  identify- 
ing "trade-marks"  on  vessels  of  clay.  Probably  a  system  of  written  signs 
was  made  necessary  by  the  increase  of  trade  among  the  tribes,  and  its  first 
forms  were  rough  and  conventional  pictures  of  commercial  objects  and 
accounts.  As  trade  connected  tribes  of  diverse  languages,  some  mutually 
intelligible  mode  of  record  and  communication  became  desirable.  Pre- 
sumably the  numerals  were  among  the  earliest  written  symbols,  usually 
taking  the  form  of  parallel  marks  representing  the  fingers;  we  still  call 
them  fingers  when  we  speak  of  them  as  digits.  Such  words  as  five,  the 
German  fiinf  and  the  Greek  pente  go  back  to  a  root  meaning  hand;"  so 
the  Roman  numerals  indicated  fingers,  "V"  represented  an  expanded 
hand,  and  "X"  was  merely  two  "V's"  connected  at  their  points.  Writing 
was  in  its  beginnings— as  it  still  is  in  China  and  Japan— a  form  of  drawing, 
an  art.  As  men  used  gestures  when  they  could  not  use  words,  so  they 
used  pictures  to  transmit  their  thoughts  across  time  and  space;  every  word 
and  every  letter  known  to  us  was  once  a  picture,  even  as  trade-marks  and 
the  signs  of  the  zodiac  are  to  this  day.  The  primeval  Chinese  pictures  that 
preceded  writing  were  called  ku-ivan— literally,  "gesture-pictures."  Totem 
poles  were  pictograph  writing;  they  were,  as  Mason  suggests,  tribal 


autographs.  Some  tribes  used  notched  sticks  to  help  the  memory 
or  to  convey  a  message;  others,  like  the  Algonquin  Indians,  not  only 
notched  the  sticks  but  painted  figures  upon  them,  making  them  into  min- 
iature totem  poles;  or  perhaps  these  poles  were  notched  sticks  on  a 
grandiose  scale.  The  Peruvian  Indians  kept  complex  records,  both  of 
numbers  and  ideas,  by  knots  and  loops  made  in  diversely  colored  cords; 
perhaps  some  light  is  shed  upon  the  origins  of  the  South  American  Indians 
by  the  fact  that  a  similar  custom  existed  among  the  natives  of  the  Eastern 
Archipelago  and  Polynesia.  Lao-tse,  calling  upon  the  Chinese  to  return 
to  the  simple  life,  proposed  that  they  should  go  back  to  their  primeval  use 
of  knotted  cords.18 

More  highly  developed  forms  of  writing  appear  sporadically  among  na- 
ture men.  Hieroglyphics  have  been  found  on  Easter  Island,  in  the  South 
Seas;  and  on  one  of  the  Caroline  Islands  a  script  has  been  discovered  which 
consists  of  fifty-one  syllabic  signs,  picturing  figures  and  ideas.19  Tradition 
tells  how  the  priests  and  chiefs  of  Easter  Island  tried  to  keep  to  themselves 
all  knowledge  of  writing,  and  how  the  people  assembled  annually  to  hear 
the  tablets  read;  writing  was  obviously,  in  its  earlier  stages,  a  mysterious  and 
holy  thing,  a  hieroglyph  or  sacred  carving.  We  cannot  be  sure  that  these 
Polynesian  scripts  were  not  derived  from  some  of  the  historic  civilizations. 
In  general,  writing  is  a  sign  of  civilization,  the  least  uncertain  of  the  pre- 
carious distinctions  between  civilized  and  primitive  men. 

Literature  is  at  first  words  rather  than  letters,  despite  its  name;  it  arises  as 
clerical  chants  or  magic  charms,  recited  usually  by  the  priests,  and  trans- 
mitted orally  from  memory  to  memory.  Carmina,  as  the  Romans  named 
poetry,  meant  both  verses  and  charms;  ode,  among  the  Greeks,  meant 
originally  a  magic  spell;  so  did  the  English  rune  and  lay,  and  the  German 
Lied.  Rhythm  and  meter,  suggested,  perhaps,  by  the  rhythms  of  nature  and 
bodily  life,  were  apparently  developed  by  magicians  or  shamans  to  pre- 
serve, transmit,  and  enhance  the  "magic  incantations  of  their  verse."80  The 
Greeks  attributed  the  first  hexameters  to  the  Delphic  priests,  who  were  be- 
lieved to  have  invented  the  meter  for  use  in  oracles.*1  Gradually,  out  of 
these  sacerdotal  origins,  the  poet,  the  orator  and  the  historian  were  differ- 
entiated and  secularized:  the  orator  as  the  official  lauder  of  the  king  or  solic- 
itor of  the  deity;  the  historian  as  the  recorder  of  the  royal  deeds;  the  poet  as 
the  singer  of  originally  sacred  chants,  the  formulator  and  preserver  of  heroic 
legends,  and  the  musician  who  put  his  tales  to  music  for  the  instructioi^ 
populace  and  kings.  So  the  Fijians,  the  Tahitians  and  the  Nj 
donians  had  official  orators  and  narrators  to  make  addresses  on 


ceremony,  and  to  incite  the  warriors  of  the  tribe  by  recounting  the  deeds  of 
their  forefathers  and  exalting  the  unequaled  glories  of  the  nation's  past:  how 
little  do  some  recent  historians  differ  from  these!  The  Somali  had  profes- 
sional poets  who  went  from  village  to  village  singing  songs,  like  medieval 
minnesingers  and  troubadours.  Only  exceptionally  were  these  poems  of 
love;  usually  they  dealt  with  physical  heroism,  or  battle,  or  the  relations  of 
parents  and  children.  Here,  from  the  Easter  Island  tablets,  is  the  lament  of 
a  father  separated  from  his  daughter  by  the  fortunes  of  war: 

The  sail  of  my  daughter, 

Never  broken  by  the  force  of  foreign  clans; 

The  sail  of  my  daughter, 

Unbroken  by  the  conspiracy  of  Honiti! 

Ever  victorious  in  all  her  fights, 

She  could  not  be  enticed  to  drink  poisoned  waters 

In  the  obsidian  glass. 

Can  my  sorrow  ever  be  appeased 

While  we  are  divided  by  the  mighty  seas? 

O  my  daughter,  O  my  daughter! 

It  is  a  vast  and  watery  road 

Over  which  I  look  toward  the  horizon, 

My  daughter,  O  my  daughter!" 


Origins— Mathematics— Astronomy— Medicine— Surgery 

In  the  opinion  of  Herbert  Spencer,  that  supreme  expert  in  the  collection 
of  evidence  post  judicium,  science,  like  letters,  began  with  the  priests, 
originated  in  astronomic  observations,  governing  religious  festivals,  and 
was  preserved  in  the  temples  and  transmitted  across  the  generations  as 
part  of  the  clerical  heritage."  We  cannot  say,  for  here  again  beginnings 
elude  us,  and  we  may  only  surmise.  Perhaps  science,  like  civilization  in 
general,  began  with  agriculture;  geometry,  as  its  name  indicates,  was  the 
measurement  of  the  soil;  and  the  calculation  of  crops  and  seasons,  necessi- 
tating the  observation  of  the  stars  and  the  construction  of  a  calendar,  may 
have  generated  astronomy.  Navigation  advanced  astronomy,  trade  de- 
veloped mathematics,  and  the  industrial  arts  laid  the  bases  of  physics  and 


Counting  was  probably  one  of  the  earliest  forms  of  speech,  and  in  many 
tribes  it  still  presents  a  relieving  simplicity.  The  Tasmanians  counted  up 
to  two:  "Farmery,  calabawa,  cardia"— i.e.,  "one,  two,  plenty";  the  Gua- 
ranis  of  Brazil  adventured  further  and  said:  "One,  two,  three,  four,  in- 
numerable." The  New  Hollanders  had  no  words  for  three  or  four;  three 
they  called  "two-one";  four  was  "two-two."  Damara  natives  would  not 
exchange  two  sheep  for  four  sticks,  but  willingly  exchanged,  twice  in 
succession,  one  sheep  for  two  sticks.  Counting  was  by  the  fingers;  hence 
the  decimal  system.  When— apparently  after  some  time— the  idea  of  twelve 
was  reached,  the  number  became  a  favorite  because  it  was  so  pleasantly 
divisible  by  five  of  the  first  six  digits;  and  that  duodecimal  system  was 
born  which  obstinately  survives  in  English  measurements  today:  twelve 
months  in  a  year,  twelve  pence  in  a  shilling,  twelve  units  in  a  dozen,  twelve 
dozen  in  a  gross,  twelve  inches  in  a  foot.  Thirteen,  on  the  other  hand, 
refused  to  be  divided,  and  became  disreputable  and  unlucky  forever.  Toes 
added  to  fingers  created  the  idea  of  twenty  or  a  score;  the  use  of  this  unit 
in  reckoning  lingers  in  the  French  quatre-vingt  (four  twenties)  for 
eighty"  Other  parts  of  the  body  served  as  standards  of  measurement:  a 
hand  for  a  "span,"  a  thumb  for  an  inch  (in  French  the  two  words  are  the 
same),  an  elbow  for  a  "cubit,"  an  arm  for  an  "ell,"  a  foot  for  a  foot.  At 
an  early  date  pebbles  were  added  to  fingers  as  an  aid  in  counting;  the 
survival  of  the  abacus,  and  of  the  "little  stone"  (calculus)  concealed  in 
the  word  calculate,  reveal  to  us  how  small,  again,  is  the  gap  between  the 
simplest  and  the  latest  men.  Thoreau  longed  for  this  primitive  simplicity, 
and  well  expressed  a  universally  recurrent  mood:  "An  honest  man  has 
hardly  need  to  count  more  than  his  ten  fingers,  or,  in  extreme  cases  he 
may  add  his  toes,  and  lump  the  rest.  I  say,  let  our  affairs  be  as  two  or 
three,  and  not  as  a  hundred  or  a  thousand;  instead  of  a  million  count  half 
a  dozen,  and  keep  your  accounts  on  your  thumb-nail."* 

The  measurement  of  time  by  the  movements  of  the  heavenly  bodies 
was  probably  the  beginning  of  astronomy;  the  very  word  measure,  like 
the  word  month  (and  perhaps  the  word  man— the  measurer),  goes  back 
apparently  to  a  root  denoting  the  moon.80  Men  measured  time  by  moons 
long  before  they  counted  it  by  years;  the  sun,  like  the  father,  was  a  com- 
paratively late  discovery;  even  today  Easter  is  reckoned  according  to  the 
phases  of  the  moon.  The  Polynesians  had  a  calendar  of  thirteen  months, 
regulated  by  the  moon;  when  their  lunar  year  diverged  too  flagrantly 


from  the  procession  of  the  seasons  they  dropped  a  moon,  and  the  balance 
was  restored.*7  But  such  sane  uses  of  the  heavens  were  exceptional; 
astrology  antedated— and  perhaps  will  survive— astronomy;  simple  souls  are 
more  interested  in  telling  futures  than  in  telling  time.  A  myriad  of  super- 
stitions grew  up  anent  the  influence  of  the  stars  upon  human  character 
and  fate;  and  many  of  these  superstitions  flourish  in  our  own  day.*  Per- 
haps they  are  not  superstitions,  but  only  another  kind  of  error  than  science. 

Natural  man  formulates  no  physics,  but  merely  practises  it;  he  cannot 
plot  the  path  of  a  projectile,  but  he  can  aim  an  arrow  well;  he  has  no 
chemical  symbols,  but  he  knows  at  a  glance  which  plants  are  poison  and 
which  are  food,  and  uses  subtle  herbs  to  heal  the  ills  of  the  flesh.  Perhaps 
we  should  employ  another  gender  here,  for  probably  the  first  doctors 
were  women;  not  only  because  they  were  the  natural  nurses  of  the  men, 
nor  merely  because  they  made  midwifery,  rather  than  venality,  the  oldest 
profession,  but  because  their  closer  connection  with  the  soil  gave  them  a 
superior  knowledge  of  plants,  and  enabled  them  to  develop  the  art  of 
medicine  as  distinct  from  the  magic-mongering  of  the  priests.  From  the 
earliest  days  to  a  time  yet  within  our  memory,  it  was  the  woman  who 
healed.  Only  when  the  woman  failed  did  the  primitive  sick  resort  to  the 
medicine-man  and  the  shaman? 

It  is  astonishing  how  many  cures  primitive  doctors  effected  despite  their 
theories  of  disease.20  To  these  simple  people  disease  seemed  to  be  possession 
of  the  body  by  an  alien  power  or  spirit— a  conception  not  essentially  differ- 
ent from  the  germ  theory  which  pervades  medicine  today.  The  most 
popular  method  of  cure  was  by  some  magic  incantation  that  would  pro- 
pitiate the  evil  spirit  or  drive  it  away.  How  perennial  this  form  of  therapy 
is  may  be  seen  in  the  story  of  the  Gadarene  swine.80*  Even  now  epilepsy 
is  regarded  by  many  as  a  possession;  some  contemporary  religions  prescribe 
forms  of  exorcism  for  banishing  disease,  and  prayer  is  recognized  by  most 
living  people  as  an  aid  to  pills  and  drugs.  Perhaps  the  primitive  practice 
was  based,  as  much  as  the  most  modern,  on  the  healing  power  of  sugges- 
tion. The  tricks  of  these  early  doctors  were  more  dramatic  than  those  of 
their  more  civilized  successors:  they  tried  to  scare  off  the  possessing 
demon  by  assuming  terrifying  masks,  covering  themselves  with  the  skins 

*  Extract  from  an  advertisement  in  the  Town  Hall  (New  York)  program  of  March  5, 

1934:  "HOROSCOPES,  by ,  Astrologer  to  New  York's  most  distinguished 

social  and  professional  clientele.  Ten  dollars  an  hour." 


of  animals,  shouting,  raving,  slapping  their  hands,  shaking  rattles,  and 
sucking  the  demon  out  through  a  hollow  tube;  as  an  old  adage  put  it, 
"Nature  cures  the  disease  while  the  remedy  amuses  the  patient."  The 
Brazilian  Bororos  carried  the  science  to  a  higher  stage  by  having  the  father 
take  the  medicine  in  order  to  cure  the  sick  child;  almost  invariably  the 
child  got  well.80 

Along  with  medicative  herbs  we  find  in  the  vast  pharmacopoeia  of 
primitive  man  an  assortment  of  soporific  drugs  calculated  to  ease  pain  or  to 
facilitate  operations.  Poisons  like  curare  (used  so  frequently  on  the 
tips  of  arrows),  and  drugs  like  hemp,  opium  and  eucalyptus  are  older 
than  history;  one  of  our  most  popular  anesthetics  goes  back  to  the  Peruvian 
use  of  coca  for  this  purpose.  Carrier  tells  how  the  Iroquois  cured  scurvy 
with  the  bark  and  leaves  of  the  hemlock  spruce.*1  Primitive  surgery  knew 
a  variety  of  operations  and  instruments.  Childbirth  was  well  managed; 
fractures  and  wounds  were  ably  set  and  dressed.83  By  means  of  obsidian 
knives,  or  sharpened  flints,  or  fishes'  teeth,  blood  was  let,  abscesses  were 
drained,  and  tissues  were  scarified.  Trephining  of  the  skull  was  practised 
by  primitive  medicine-men  from  the  ancient  Peruvian  Indians  to  the 
modern  Melanesians;  the  latter  averaged  nine  successes  out  of  every  ten 
operations,  while  in  1786  the  same  operation  was  invariably  fatal  at  the 
Hotel-Dieu  in  Paris.33 

We  smile  at  primitive  ignorance  while  we  submit  anxiously  to  the  ex- 
pensive therapeutics  of  our  own  day.  As  Dr.  Oliver  Wendell  Holmes 
wrote,  after  a  lifetime  of  healing: 

There  is  nothing  men  will  not  do,  there  is  nothing  they  have  not 
done,  to  recover  their  health  and  save  their  lives.  They  have  sub- 
mitted to  be  half-drowned  in  water  and  half-choked  with  gases,  to 
be  buried  up  to  their  chins  in  earth,  to  be  seared  with  hot  irons  like 
galley-slaves,  to  be  crimped  with  knives  like  codfish,  to  have  needles 
thrust  into  their  flesh,  and  bonfires  kindled  on  their  skin,  to  swallow 
all  sorts  of  abominations,  and  to  pay  for  all  this  as  if  to  be  singed 
and  scalded  were  a  costly  privilege,  as  if  blisters  were  a  blessing  and 
leeches  a  luxury.** 


IU.   ART 

The  meaning  of  beauty—Of  art— The  primitive  sense  of  beauty— 

The  painting  of  the  body— Cosmetics— Tattooing— Scarifica-    - 

tion  —  Clothing  —  Ornaments  —  Pottery  —  Painting  — 

Sculpture  —  Architecture  —  The  dance  —  Music  — 

Summary   of  the  primitive  preparation  for 


After  fifty  thousand  years  of  art  men  still  dispute  as  to  its  sources  in 
instinct  and  in  history.  What  is  beauty?— why  do  we  admire  it?— why  do 
we  endeavor  to  create  it?  Since  this  is  no  place  for  psychological  discourse 
we  shall  answer,  briefly  and  precariously,  that  beauty  is  any  quality  by 
which  an  object  or  a  form  pleases  a  beholder.  Primarily  and  originally  the 
object  does  not  please  the  beholder  because  it  is  beautiful,  but  rather  he 
calls  it  beautiful  because  it  pleases  him.  Any  object  that  satisfies  desire 
will  seem  beautiful:  food  is  beautiful— Thai's  is  not  beautiful— to  a  starving 
man.  The  pleasing  object  may  as  like  as  not  be  the  beholder  himself;  in  our 
secret  hearts  no  other  form  is  quite  so  fair  as  ours,  and  art  begins  with  the 
adornment  of  one's  own  exquisite  body.  Or  the  pleasing  object  may  be  the 
desired  mate;  and  then  the  esthetic— beauty-feeling— sense  takes  on  the  in- 
tensity and  creativeness  of  sex,  and  spreads  the  aura  of  beauty  to  every- 
thing that  concerns  the  beloved  one— to  all  forms  that  resemble  her, 
all  colors  that  adorn  her,  please  her  or  speak  of  her,  all  ornaments 
and  garments  that  become  her,  all  shapes  and  motions  that  recall 
her  symmetry  and  grace.  Or  the  pleasing  form  may  be  a  desired 
male;  and  out  of  the  attraction  that  here  draws  frailty  to  worship  strength 
comes  that  sense  of  sublimity— satisfaction  in  the  presence  of  power— which 
creates  the  loftiest  art  of  all.  Finally  nature  herself— with  our  cooperation 
—may  become  both  sublime  and  beautiful;  not  only  because  it  simulates 
and  suggests  all  the  tenderness  of  women  and  all  the  strength  of  men,  but 
because  we  project  into  it  our  own  feelings  and  fortunes,  our  love  of  others 
and  of  ourselves— relishing  in  it  the  scenes  of  our  youth,  enjoying  its  quiet 
solitude  as  an  escape  from  the  storm  of  life,  living  with  it  through  its  almost 
human  seasons  of  green  youth,  hot  maturity,  "mellow  fruitfulness"  and 
cold  decay,  and  recognizing  it  vaguely  as  the  mother  that  lent  us  life 
and  will  receive  us  in  our  death. 


Art  is  the  creation  of  beauty;  it  is  the  expression  of  thought  or  feeling 
in  a  form  that  seems  beautiful  or  sublime,  and  therefore  arouses  in  us  some 
reverberation  of  that  primordial  delight  which  woman  gives  to  man,  or  man 
to  woman.  The  thought  may  be  any  capture  of  life's  significance,  the  feel- 
ing may  be  any  arousal  or  release  of  life's  tensions.  The  form  may  satisfy 
us  through  rhythm,  which  falls  in  pleasantly  with  the  alternations  of  our 
breath,  the  pulsation  of  our  blood,  and  the  majestic  oscillations  of  winter 
and  summer,  ebb  and  flow,  night  and  day;  or  the  form  may  please  us 
through  symmetry,  which  is  a  static  rhythm,  standing  for  strength  and 
recalling  to  us  the  ordered  proportions  of  plants  and  animals,  of  women 
and  men;  or  it  may  please  us  through  color,  which  brightens  the  spirit  or 
intensifies  life;  or  finally  the  form  may  please  us  through  veracity—be- 
cause its  lucid  and  transparent  imitation  of  nature  or  reality  catches  some 
mortal  loveliness  of  plant  or  animal,  or  some  transient  meaning  of  circum- 
stance, and  holds  it  still  for  our  lingering  enjoyment  or  leisurely  under- 
standing. From  these  many  sources  come  those  noble  superfluities  of  life 
—song  and  dance,  music  and  drama,  pottery  and  painting,  sculpture  and 
architecture,  literature  and  philosophy.  For  what  is  philosophy  but  an  art 
—one  more  attempt  to  give  "significant  form"  to  the  chaos  of  experience? 

If  the  sense  of  beauty  is  not  strong  in  primitive  society  it  may  be  because 
the  lack  of  delay  between  sexual  desire  and  fulfilment  gives  no  time  for 
that  imaginative  enhancement  of  the  object  which  makes  so  much  of  the 
object's  beauty.  Primitive  man  seldom  thinks  of  selecting  women  because 
of  what  we  should  call  their  beauty;  he  thinks  rather  of  their  usefulness, 
and  never  dreams  of  rejecting  a  strong-armed  bride  because  of  her  ugli- 
ness. The  Indian  chief,  being  asked  which  of  his  wives  was  loveliest, 
apologized  for  never  having  thought  of  the  matter.  "Their  faces,"  he  said, 
with  the  mature  wisdom  of  a  Franklin,  "might  be  more  or  less  handsome, 
but  in  other  respects  women  are  all  the  same."  Where  a  sense  of  beauty 
is  present  in  primitive  man  it  sometimes  eludes  us  by  being  so  different 
from  our  own.  "All  Negro  races  that  I  know,"  says  Reichard,  "account  a 
woman  beautiful  who  is  not  constricted  at  the  waist,  and  when  the  body 
from  the  arm-pits  to  the  hips  is  the  same  breadth— 'like  a  ladder,'  says  the 
Coast  Negro."  Elephantine  ears  and  an  overhanging  stomach  are  feminine 
charms  to  some  African  males;  and  throughout  Africa  it  is  the  fat  woman 
who  is  accounted  loveliest.  In  Nigeria,  says  Mungo  Park,  "corpulence  and 
beauty  seem  to  be  terms  nearly  synonymous.  A  woman  of  even  moderate 


pretensions  must  be  one  who  cannot  walk  without  a  slave  under  each  arm 
to  support  her;  and  a  perfect  beauty  is  a  load  for  a  camel."  "Most  savages/' 
says  Briffault,  "have  a  preference  for  what  we  should  regard  as  one  of 
the  most  unsightly  features  in  a  woman's  form,  namely,  long,  hanging 
breasts."*  "It  is  well  known,"  says  Darwin,  "that  with  many  Hottentot 
women  the  posterior  part  of  the  body  projects  in  a  wonderful  manner  . . .; 
and  Sir  Andrew  Smith  is  certain  that  this  peculiarity  is  greatly  admired  by 
the  men.  He  once  saw  a  woman  who  was  considered  a  beauty,  and  she 
was  so  immensely  developed  behind  that  when  seated  on  level  ground  she 
could  not  rise,  and  had  to  push  herself  along  until  she  came  to  a  slope. . .  . 
According  to  Burton  the  Somali  men  are  said  to  choose  their  wives  by 
ranging  them  in  a  line,  and  by  picking  her  out  who  projects  furthest  a  tergo. 
Nothing  can  be  more  hateful  to  a  Negro  than  the  opposite  form."88 

Indeed  it  is  highly  probable  that  the  natural  male  thinks  of  beauty  in 
terms  of  himself  rather  than  in  terms  of  woman;  art  begins  at  home.  Primi- 
tive men  equaled  modern  men  in  vanity,  incredible  as  this  will  seem  to 
women.  Among  simple  peoples,  as  among  animals,  it  is  the  male  rather 
than  the  female  that  puts  on  ornament  and  mutilates  his  body  for  beauty's 
sake.  In  Australia,  says  Bonwick,  "adornments  are  almost  entirely  monop- 
olized by  men";  so  too  in  Melanesia,  New  Guinea,  New  Caledonia,  New 
Britain,  New  Hanover,  and  among  the  North  American  Indians.87  In  some 
tribes  more  time  is  given  to  the  adornment  of  the  body  than  to  any  other 
business  of  the  day.88  Apparently  the  first  form  of  art  is  the  artificial  color- 
ing of  the  body— sometimes  to  attract  women,  sometimes  to  frighten  foes. 
The  Australian  native,  like  the  latest  American  belle,  always  carried  with 
him  a  provision  of  white,  red,  and  yellow  paint  for  touching  up  his  beauty 
now  and  then;  and  when  the  supply  threatened  to  run  out  he  undertook 
expeditions  of  some  distance  and  danger  to  renew  it.  On  ordinary  days  he 
contented  himself  with  a  few  spots  of  color  on  his  cheeks,  his  shoulders 
and  his  breast;  but  on  festive  occasions  he  felt  shamefully  nude  unless  his 
entire  body  was  painted.89 

In  some  tribes  the  men  reserved  to  themselves  the  right  to  paint  the 
body;  in  others  the  married  women  were  forbidden  to  paint  their  necks.40 
But  women  were  not  long  in  acquiring  the  oldest  of  the  arts— cosmetics. 
When  Captain  Cook  dallied  in  New  Zealand  he  noticed  that  his  sailors, 
when  they  returned  from  their  adventures  on  shore,  had  artificially  red  or 
yellow  noses;  the  paint  of  the  native  Helens  had  stuck  to  them."  The 


Fellatah  ladies  of  Central  Africa  spent  several  hours  a  day  over  their  toilette: 
they  made  their  fingers  and  toes  purple  by  keeping  them  wrapped  all  night 
in  henna  leaves;  they  stained  their  teeth  alternately  with  blue,  yellow,  and 
purple  dyes;  they  colored  their  hair  with  indigo,  and  penciled  their  eyelids 
with  sulphuret  of  antimony."  Every  Bongo  lady  carried  in  her  dressing- 
case  tweezers  for  pulling  out  eyelashes  and  eyebrows,  lancet-shaped  hair- 
pins, rings  and  bells,  buttons  and  clasps.43 

The  primitive  soul,  like  the  Periclean  Greek,  fretted  over  the  transi- 
toriness  of  painting,  and  invented  tattooing,  scarification  and  clothing  as 
more  permanent  adornments.  The  women  as  well  as  the  men,  in  many  tribes, 
submitted  to  the  coloring  needle,  and  bore  without  flinching  even  the  tat- 
tooing of  their  lips.  In  Greenland  the  mothers  tattooed  their  daughters 
early,  the  sooner  to  get  them  married  off."  Most  often,  however,  tattooing 
itself  was  considered  insufficiently  visible  or  impressive,  and  a  number  of 
tribes  on  every  continent  produced  deep  scars  on  their  flesh  to  make  them- 
selves lovelier  to  their  fellows,  or  more  discouraging  to  their  enemies.  As 
Theophile  Gautier  put  it,  "having  no  clothes  to  embroider,  they  embroid- 
ered their  skins."46  Flints  or  mussel  shells  cut  the  flesh,  and  often  a  ball  of 
earth  was  placed  within  the  wound  to  enlarge  the  scar.  The  Torres  Straits 
natives  wore  huge  scars  like  epaulets;  the  Abcokuta  cut  themselves  to  pro- 
duce scars  imitative  of  lizards,  alligators  or  tortoises.40  "There  is,"  says 
Georg,  "no  part  of  the  body  that  has  not  been  perfected,  decorated,  dis- 
figured, painted,  bleached,  tattooed,  reformed,  stretched  or  squeezed,  out  of 
vanity  or  desire  for  ornament.""  The  Botocudos  derived  their  name  from 
a  plug  (botoque)  which  they  inserted  into  the  lower  lip  and  the  ears  in 
the  eighth  year  of  life,  and  repeatedly  replaced  with  a  larger  plug  until 
the  opening  was  as  much  as  four  inches  in  diameter.48  Hottentot  women 
trained  the  labia  mlnora  to  assume  enoromous  lengths,  so  producing  at  last 
the  "Hottentot  apron"  so  greatly  admired  by  their  men.49  Ear-rings  and 
nose-rings  were  de  rigueur;  the  natives  of  Gippsland  believed  that  one  who 
died  without  a  nose-ring  would  suffer  horrible  torments  in  the  next  life.00 
It  is  all  very  barbarous,  says  the  modern  lady,  as  she  bores  her  ears  for  rings, 
paints  her  lips  and  her  cheeks,  tweezes  her  eyebrows,  reforms  her  eyelashes, 
powders  her  face,  her  neck  and  her  arms,  and  compresses  her  feet.  The 
tattooed  sailor  speaks  with  superior  sympathy  of  the  "savages"  he  has 
known;  and  the  Continental  student,  horrified  by  primitive  mutilations, 
sports  his  honorific  scars. 

Clothing  was  apparently,  in  its  origins,  a  form  of  ornament,  a  sexual 
deterrent  or  charm  rather  than  an  article  of  use  against  cold  or  shame.81 


The  Cimbri  were  in  the  habit  of  tobogganing  naked  over  the  snow.53  When 
Darwin,  pitying  the  nakedness  of  the  Fuegians,  gave  one  of  them  a  red 
cloth  as  a  protection  against  the  cold,  the  native  tore  it  into  strips,  which 
he  and  his  companions  then  used  as  ornaments;  as  Cook  had  said  of  them, 
timelessly,  they  were  "content  to  be  naked,  but  ambitious  to  be  fine.""  In 
like  manner  the  ladies  of  the  Orinoco  cut  into  shreds  the  materials  given 
them  by  the  Jesuit  Fathers  for  clothing;  they  wore  the  ribbons  so  made 
around  their  necks,  but  insisted  that  "they  would  be  ashamed  to  wear 
clothing/'"  An  old  author  describes  the  Brazilian  natives  as  usually  naked, 
and  adds:  "Now  alreadie  some  doe  weare  apparell,  but  esteem  it  so  little 
that  they  weare  it  rather  for  fashion  than  for  honesties  sake,  and  because 
they  are  commanded  to  weare  it;  ...  as  is  well  scene  by  some  that  some- 
times come  abroad  with  certaine  garments  no  further  than  the  navell,  with- 
out any  other  thing,  or  others  onely  a  cap  on  their  heads,  and  leave  the 
other  garments  at  home.""  When  clothing  became  something  more  than 
an  adornment  it  served  partly  to  indicate  the  married  status  of  a  loyal  wife, 
partly  to  accentuate  the  form  and  beauty  of  woman.  For  the  most  part 
primitive  women  asked  of  clothing  precisely  what  later  women  have 
asked— not  that  it  should  quite  cover  their  nakedness,  but  that  it  should 
enhance  or  suggest  their  charms.  Everything  changes,  except  woman 
and  man. 

From  the  beginning  both  sexes  preferred  ornaments  to  clothing.  Primi- 
tive trade  seldom  deals  in  necessities;  it  is  usually  confined  to  articles  of 
adornment  or  play."  Jewelry  is  one  of  the  most  ancient  elements  of  civili- 
zation; in  tombs  twenty  thousand  years  old,  shells  and  teeth  have  been  found 
strung  into  necklaces."  From  simple  beginnings  such  embellishments  soon 
reached  impressive  proportions,  and  played  a  lofty  role  in  life.  The  Galla 
women  wore  rings  to  the  weight  of  six  pounds,  and  some  Dinka  women 
carried  half  a  hundredweight  of  decoration.  One  African  belle  wore  cop- 
per rings  which  became  hot  under  the  sun,  so  that  she  had  to  employ  an 
attendant  to  shade  or  fan  her.  The  Queen  of  the  Wabunias  on  the  Congo 
wore  a  brass  collar  weighing  twenty  pounds;  she  had  to  lie  down  every 
now  and  then  to  rest.  Poor  women  who  were  so  unfortunate  as  to  have 
only  light  jewelry  imitated  carefully  the  steps  of  those  who  carried  great 
burdens  of  bedizenment." 

The  first  source  of  art,  then,  is  akin  to  the  display  of  colors  and  plumage 
on  the  male  animal  in  mating  time;  it  lies  in  the  desire  to  adorn  and  beautify 


the  body.  And  just  as  self-love  and  mate-love,  overflowing,  pour  out  their 
surplus  of  affection  upon  nature,  so  the  impulse  to  beautify  passes  from  the 
personal  to  the  external  world.  The  soul  seeks  to  express  its  feeling  in  objec- 
tive ways,  through  color  and  form;  art  really  begins  when  men  undertake  to 
beautify  things.  Perhaps  its  first  external  medium  was  pottery.  The  potter's 
wheel,  like  writing  and  the  state,  belongs  to  the  historic  civilizations;  but  even 
without  it  primitive  men— or  rather  women— lifted  this  ancient  industry  to  an 
art,  and  achieved  merely  with  clay,  water  and  deft  fingers  an  astonishing  sym- 
metry of  form;  witness  the  pottery  fashioned  by  the  Baronga  of  South 
Africa,89  or  by  the  Pueblo  Indians.80 

When  the  potter  applied  colored  designs  to  the  surface  of  the  vessel  he  had 
formed,  he  was  creating  the  art  of  painting.  In  primitive  hands  painting  is  not 
yet  an  independent  art;  it  exists  as  an  adjunct  to  pottery  and  statuary.  Nature 
men  made  colors  out  of  clay,  and  the  Andamanese  made  oil  colors  by  mixing 
ochre  with  oils  or  fats.81  Such  colors  were  used  to  ornament  weapons,  imple- 
ments, vases,  clothing,  and  buildings.  Many  hunting  tribes  of  Africa  and 
Oceania  painted  upon  the  walls  of  their  caves  or  upon  neighboring  rocks 
vivid  representations  of  the  animals  that  they  sought  in  the  chase.83 

Sculpture,  like  painting,  probably  owed  its  origin  to  pottery:  the  potter 
found  that  he  could  mold  not  only  articles  of  use,  but  imitative  figures  that 
might  serve  as  magic  amulets,  and  then  as  things  of  beauty  in  themselves. 
The  Eskimos  carved  caribou  antlers  and  walrus  ivory  into  figurines  of  animals 
and  men.83  Again,  primitive  man  sought  to  mark  his  hut,  or  a  totem-pole,  or 
a  grave  with  some  image  that  would  indicate  the  object  worshiped,  or  the 
person  deceased;  at  first  he  carved  merely  a  face  upon  a  post,  then  a  head, 
then  the  whole  post;  and  through  this  filial  marking  of  graves  sculpture  be- 
came an  art.*4  So  the  ancient  dwellers  on  Easter  Island  topped  with  enormous 
monolithic  statues  the  vaults  of  their  dead;  scores  of  such  statues,  many  of 
them  twenty  feet  high,  have  been  found  there;  some,  now  prostrate  in  ruins, 
were  apparently  sixty  feet  tall. 

How  did  architecture  begin?  We  can  hardly  apply  so  magnificent  a  term 
to  the  construction  of  the  primitive  hut;  for  architecture  is  not  mere  building, 
but  beautiful  building.  It  began  when  for  the  first  time  a  man  or  a  woman 
thought  of  a  dwelling  in  terms  of  appearance  as  well  as  of  use.  Probably 
this  effort  to  give  beauty  or  sublimity  to  a  structure  was  directed  first  to 
graves  rather  than  to  homes;  while  the  commemorative  pillar  developed  into 
statuary,  the  tomb  grew  into  a  temple.  For  to  primitive  thought  the  dead 
were  more  important  and  powerful  than  the  living;  and,  besides,  the  dead 
could  remain  settled  in  one  place,  while  the  living  wandered  too  often  to 
warrant  their  raising  permanent  homes. 

Even  in  early  days,  and  probably  long  before  he  thought  of  carving  objects 
or  building  tombs,  man  found  pleasure  in  rhythm,  and  began  to  develop  the 


crying  and  warbling,  the  prancing  and  preening,  of  the  animal  into  song  and 
dance.  Perhaps,  like  the  animal,  he  sang  before  he  learned  to  talk,"  and 
danced  as  early  as  he  sang.  Indeed  no  art  so  characterized  or  expressed 
primitive  man  as  the  dance.  He  developed  it  from  primordial  simplicity  to  a 
complexity  unrivaled  in  civilization,  and  varied  it  into  a  thousand  forms.  The 
great  festivals  of  the  tribes  were  celebrated  chiefly  with  communal  and  in- 
dividual dancing;  great  wars  were  opened  with  martial  steps  and  chants;  the 
great  ceremonies  of  religion  were  a  mingling  of  song,  drama  and  dance.  What 
seems  to  us  now  to  be  forms  of  play  were  probably  serious  matters  to  early 
men;  they  danced  not  merely  to  express  themselves,  but  to  offer  suggestions 
to  nature  or  the  gods;  for  example,  the  periodic  incitation  to  abundant  repro- 
duction was  accomplished  chiefly  through  the  hypnotism  of  the  dance. 
Spencer  derived  the  dance  from  the  ritual  of  welcoming  a  victorious  chief 
home  from  the  wars;  Freud  derived  it  from  the  natural  expression  of  sensual 
desire,  and  the  group  technique  of  erotic  stimulation;  if  one  should  assert,  with 
similar  narrowness,  that  the  dance  was  born  of  sacred  rites  and  mummeries, 
and  then  merge  the  three  theories  into  one,  there  might  result  as  definite  a 
conception  of  the  origin  of  the  dance  as  can  be  attained  by  us  today. 

From  the  dance,  we  may  believe,  came  instrumental  music  and  the  drama. 
The  making  of  such  music  appears  to  arise  out  of  a  desire  to  mark  and  accen- 
tuate with  sound  the  rhythm  of  the  dance,  and  to  intensify  with  shrill  or 
rhythmic  notes  the  excitement  necessary  to  patriotism  or  procreation.  The 
instruments  were  limited  in  range  and  accomplishment,  but  almost  endless  in 
variety:  native  ingenuity  exhausted  itself  in  fashioning  horns,  trumpets,  gongs, 
tamtams,  clappers,  rattles,  castanets,  flutes  and  drums  from  horns,  skins,  shells, 
ivory,  brass,  copper,  bamboo  and  wood;  and  it  ornamented  them  with  elabo- 
rate carving  and  coloring.  The  taut  string  of  the  bow  became  the  origin  of 
a  hundred  instruments  from  the  primitive  lyre  to  the  Stradivarius  violin  and 
the  modern  pianoforte.  Professional  singers,  like  professional  dancers,  arose 
among  the  tribes;  and  vague  scales,  predominantly  minor  in  tone,  were  de- 

With  music,  song  and  dance  combined,  the  "savage"  created  for  us  the 
drama  and  the  opera.  For  the  primitive  dance  was  frequently  devoted  to 
mimicry;  it  imitated,  most  simply,  the  movements  of  animals  and  men,  and 
passed  to  the  mimetic  performance  of  actions  and  events.  So  some  Australian 
tribes  staged  a  sexual  dance  around  a  pit  ornamented  with  shrubbery  to  rep- 
resent the  vulva,  and,  after  ecstatic  and  erotic  gestures  and  prancing,  cast  their 
spears  symbolically  into  the  pit.  The  northwestern  tribes  of  the  same  island 
played  a  drama  of  death  and  resurrection  differing  only  in  simplicity  from 
the  medieval  mystery  and  modern  Passion  plays:  the  dancers  slowly  sank  to 
the  ground,  hid  their  heads  under  the  boughs  they  carried,  and  simulated 


death;  then,  at  a  sign  from  their  leader,  they  rose  abruptly  in  a  wild  triumphal 
chant  and  dance  announcing  the  resurrection  of  the  soul.07  In  like  manner  a 
thousand  forms  of  pantomime  described  events  significant  to  the  history  of 
the  tribe,  or  actions  important  in  the  individual  life.  When  rhythm  dis- 
appeared from  these  performances  the  dance  passed  into  the  drama,  and  one 
of  the  greatest  of  art-forms  was  born. 

In  these  ways  precivilized  men  created  the  forms  and  bases  of  civiliza- 
tion. Looking  backward  upon  this  brief  survey  of  primitive  culture,  we 
find  every  element  of  civilization  except  writing  and  the  state.  All  the 
modes  of  economic  life  are  invented  for  us  here:  hunting  and  fishing,  herd- 
ing and  tillage,  transport  and  building,  industry  and  commerce  and  finance. 
AU  the  simpler  structures  of  political  life  are  organized:  the  clan,  the  fam- 
ily, the  village  community,  and  the  tribe;  freedom  and  order— those  hostile 
foci  around  which  civilization  revolves— find  their  first  adjustment  and  rec- 
onciliation; law  and  justice  begin.  The  fundamentals  of  morals  are  estab- 
lished: the  training  of  children,  the  regulation  of  the  sexes,  the  inculcation 
of  honor  and  decency,  of  manners  and  loyalty.  The  bases  of  religion  are 
laid,  and  its  hopes  and  terrors  are  applied  to  the  encouragement  of  morals 
and  the  strengthening  of  the  group.  Speech  is  developed  into  complex 
languages,  medicine  and  surgery  appear,  and  modest  beginnings  are  made 
in  science,  literature  and  art.  All  in  all  it  is  a  picture  of  astonishing  creation, 
of  form  rising  out  of  chaos,  of  one  road  after  another  being  opened  from 
the  animal  to  the  sage.  Without  these  "savages,"  and  their  hundred  thou- 
sand years  of  experiment  and  groping,  civilization  could  not  have  been. 
We  owe  almost  everything  to  them— as  a  fortunate,  and  possibly  degen- 
erate, youth  inherits  the  means  to  culture,  security  and  ease  through 
the  long  toil  of  an  unlettered  ancestry. 


The  Prehistoric  Beginnings 
of  Civilization 


The  purpose  of  prehistory— The  romances  of  archeology 

BUT  we  have  spoken  loosely;  these  primitive  cultures  that  we  have 
sketched  as  a  means  of  studying  the  elements  of  civilization  were  not 
necessarily  the  ancestors  of  our  own;  for  all  that  we  know  they  may  be  the 
degenerate  remnants  of  higher  cultures  that  decayed  when  human  leader- 
ship moved  in  the  wake  of  the  receding  ice  from  the  tropics  to  the  north 
temperate  zone.  We  have  tried  to  understand  how  civilization  in  general 
arises  and  takes  form;  we  have  still  to  trace  the  prehistoric*  origins  of 
our  own  particular  civilization.  We  wish  now  to  inquire  briefly— for  this 
is  a  field  that  only  borders  upon  our  purpose— by  what  steps  man,  before 
history,  prepared  for  the  civilizations  of  history:  how  the  man  of  the 
jungle  or  the  cave  became  an  Egyptian  architect,  a  Babylonian  astronomer, 
a  Hebrew  prophet,  a  Persian  governor,  a  Greek  poet,  a  Roman  engineer, 
a  Hindu  saint,  a  Japanese  artist,  and  a  Chinese  sage.  We  must  pass  from 
anthropology  through  archeology  to  history. 

All  over  the  earth  seekers  are  digging  into  the  earth:  some  for  gold,  some 
for  silver,  some  for  iron,  some  for  coal;  many  of  them  for  knowledge. 
What  strange  busyness  of  men  exhuming  paleolithic  tools  from  the  banks 
of  the  Somme,  studying  with  strained  necks  the  vivid  paintings  on  the 
ceilings  of  prehistoric  caves,  unearthing  antique  skulls  at  Chou  Kou  Tien, 
revealing  the  buried  cities  of  Mohenjo-daro  or  Yucatan,  carrying  debris 
in  basket-caravans  out  of  curse-ridden  Egyptian  tombs,  lifting  out  of  the 
dust  the  palaces  of  Minos  and  Priam,  uncovering  the  ruins  of  Persepolis, 
burrowing  into  the  soil  of  Africa  for  some  remnant  of  Carthage,  recaptur- 
ing from  the  jungle  the  majestic  temples  of  Angkor!  In  1839  Jacques 
Boucher  de  Perthes  found  the  first  Stone  Age  flints  at  Abbeville,  in  France; 

•This  word  will  be  used  as  applying  to  all  ages  before  historical  records. 


Geological  Divisioial 
Period  Epoch         Stagt*y 


ist  Interg 
2nd  Intel 




3rd  Inter 


g      11 
1  \*? 
O         ^ 

4th  Ice^ 







("Wholly  R» 



for  nine  years  the  world  laughed  at  him  as  a  dupe.  In  1872  Schliemann, 
with  his  own  money,  almost  with  his  own  hands,  unearthed  the  young- 
est of  the  many  cities  of  Troy;  but  all  the  world  smiled  incredulously. 
Never  has  any  century  been  so  interested  in  history  as  that  which  followed 
the  voyage  of  young  Champollion  with  young  Napoleon  to  Egypt  ( 1 796) ; 
Napoleon  returned  empty-handed,  but  Champollion  came  back  with  all 
Egypt,  past  and  current,  in  his  grasp.  Every  generation  since  has  discov- 
ered new  civilizations  or  cultures,  and  has  pushed  farther  and  farther  back 
the  frontier  of  man's  knowledge  of  his  development.  There  arc  not  many 
things  finer  in  our  murderous  species  than  this  noble  curiosity,  this  rest- 
less and  reckless  passion  to  understand. 

1.   Men  of  the  Old  Stone  Age 
The  geological  background— Paleolithic  types 

Immense  volumes  have  been  written  to  expound  our  knowledge,  and 
conceal  our  ignorance,  of  primitive  man.  We  leave  to  other  imaginative 
sciences  the  task  of  describing  the  men  of  the  Old  and  the  New  Stone 
Age;  our  concern  is  to  trace  the  contributions  of  these  "paleolithic"  and 
"neolithic"  cultures  to  our  contemporary  life. 

The  picture  we  must  form  as  background  to  the  story  is  of  an  earth  con- 
siderably different  from  that  which  tolerates  us  transiently  today:  an  earth 
presumably  shivering  with  the  intermittent  glaciations  that  made  our  now 
temperate  zones  arctic  for  thousands  of  years,  and  piled  up  masses  of  rock 
like  the  Himalayas,  the  Alps  and  the  Pyrenees  before  the  plough  of  the  ad- 
vancing ice.*  If  we  accept  the  precarious  theories  of  contemporary  science, 
the  creature  who  became  man  by  learning  to  speak  was  one  of  the  adaptable 
species  that  survived  from  those  frozen  centuries.  In  the  Interglacial  Stages, 
while  the  ice  was  retreating  (and,  for  all  we  know,  long  before  that),  this 
strange  organism  discovered  fire,  developed  the  an  of  fashioning  stone  and 
bone  into  weapons  and  tools,  and  thereby  paved  the  way  to  civilization. 

*  Current  geological  theory  places  the  First  Ice  Age  about  500,000  B.C.;  the  First  Inter- 
glacial  Stage  about  475,000  to  400,000  B.C.;  the  Second  Ice  Age  about  400,000  B.C.;  the 
Second  Interglacial  Stage  about  375,000  to  175,000  B.C.;  the  Third  Ice  Age  about  175,000 
B.C.;  the  Third  Interglacial  Stage  about  150,000  to  50,000  B.C.;  the  Fourth  (and  latest)  Ice 
Age  about  50,000  to  25,000  B.C.*  We  arc  now  in  the  Postglacial  Stage,  whose  date  of 
termination  has  not  been  accurately  calculated.  These  and  other  details  have  been 
arranged  more  visibly  in  the  table  at  the  head  of  this  chapter. 


Various  remains  have  been  found  which—subject  to  later  correction— are 
attributed  to  this  prehistoric  man.  In  1929  a  young  Chinese  paleontologist, 
W.  C.  Pei,  discovered  in  a  cave  at  Chou  Kou  Tien,  some  thirty-seven  miles 
from  Peiping,  a  skull  adjudged  to  be  human  by  such  experts  as  the  Abbe 
Breuil  and  G.  Elliot  Smith.  Near  the  skull  were  traces  of  fire,  and  stones 
obviously  worked  into  tools;  but  mingled  with  these  signs  of  human  agency 
were  the  bones  of  animals  ascribed  by  common  consent  to  the  Early  Pleisto- 
cene Epoch,  a  million  years  ago.8  This  Peking  skull  is  by  common  opinion 
the  oldest  human  fossil  known  to  us;  and  the  tools  found  with  it  are  the 
first  human  artefacts  in  history.  At  Piltdown,  in  Sussex,  England,  Dawson  and 
Woodward  found  in  1911  some  possibly  human  fragments  now  known  as 
"Piltdown  Man,"  or  Eoanthropus  (Dawn  Man);  the  dates  assigned  to  it 
range  spaciously  from  1,000,000  to  125,000  B.C.  Similar  uncertainties  attach  to 
the  skull  and  thigh-bones  found  in  Java  in  1891,  and  the  jaw-bone  found  near 
Heidelberg  in  1907.  The  earliest  unmistakably  human  fossils  were  discovered 
at  Neanderthal,  near  Diisseldorf,  Germany,  in  1857;  they  date  apparently 
from  40,000  B.C.,  and  so  resemble  human  remains  unearthed  in  Belgium, 
France  and  Spain,  and  even  on  the  shores  of  the  Sea  of  Galilee,  that  a  whole 
race  of  "Neanderthal  Men"  has  been  pictured  as  possessing  Europe  some 
forty  millenniums  before  our  era.  They  were  short,  but  they  had  a  cranial  ca- 
pacity of  1600  cubic  centimeters— which  is  200  more  than  ours.4 

These  ancient  inhabitants  of  Europe  seem  to  have  been  displaced,  some 
20,000  B.C.,  by  a  new  race,  named  Cro-Magnon,  from  the  discovery  of  its 
relics  (1868)  in  a  grotto  of  that  name  in  the  Dordogne  region  of  southern 
France.  Abundant  remains  of  like  type  and  age  have  been  exhumed  at 
various  points  in  France,  Switzerland,  Germany  and  Wales.  They  indicate  a 
people  of  magnificent  vigor  and  stature,  ranging  from  five  feet  ten  inches  to 
six  feet  four  inches  in  height,  and  having  a  skull  capacity  of  1590  to  1715 
cubic  centimeters."  Like  the  Neanderthals,  Cro-Magnon  men  are  known  to 
us  as  "cave-men,"  because  their  remains  are  found  in  caves;  but  there  is  no 
proof  that  these  were  their  sole  dwelling-place;  it  may  be  again  but  a  jest 
of  time  that  only  those  of  them  who  lived  in  caves,  or  died  in  them,  have 
transmitted  their  bones  to  archeologists.  According  to  present  theory  this 
splendid  race  came  from  central  Asia  through  Africa  into  Europe  by  land- 
bridges  presumed  to  have  then  connected  Africa  with  Italy  and  Spain.8  The 
distribution  of  their  fossils  suggests  that  they  fought  for  many  decades,  per- 
haps centuries,  a  war  with  the  Neanderthals  for  the  possession  of  Europe;  so 
old  is  the  conflict  between  Germany  and  France.  At  all  events,  Neanderthal 
Man  disappeared;  Cro-Magnon  Man  survived,  became  the  chief  progeni- 
tor of  the  modern  western  European,  and  laid  the  bases  of  that  civilization 
which  we  inherit  today. 


The  cultural  remains  of  these  and  other  European  types  of  the  Old  Stone 
Age  have  been  classified  into  seven  main  groups,  according  to  the  location 
of  the  earliest  or  principal  finds  in  France.  All  are  characterized  by  the  use 
of  unpolished  stone  implements.  The  first  three  took  form  in  the  precarious 
interval  between  the  third  and  fourth  glaciations. 

I.  The  Pre-Chellean  Culture  or  Industry,  dating  some  125,000 
B.C.:  most  of  the  flints  found  in  this  low  layer  give  little  evidence 
of  fashioning,  and  appear  to  have  been  used  (if  at  all)  as  nature 
provided  them;  but  the  presence  of  many  stones  of  a  shape  to  fit 
the  fist,  and  in  some  degree  flaked  and  pointed,  gives  to  Pre- 
Chellean  man  the  presumptive  honor  of  having  made  the  first 
known  tool  of  European  man— the  coup-de-poing,  or  "blow-of- 
the-fist"  stone. 

II.  The  Chellean  Culture,  ca.  100,000  B.C.,  improved  this  tool 
by  roughly  flaking  it  on  both  sides,  pointing  it  into  the  shape  of 
an  almond,  and  fitting  it  better  to  the  hand. 

III.  The  Acheulean  Culture,  about  75,000  B.C.,  left  an  abun- 
dance of  remains  in  Europe,  Greenland,  the  United  States,  Canada, 
Mexico,  Africa,  the  Near  East,  India,  and  China;  it  not  only 
brought  the  coup-de-poing  to  greater  symmetry  and  point,  but  it 
produced  a  vast  variety  of  special  tools— hammers,  anvils,  scrapers, 
planes,  arrow-heads,  spear-heads,  and  knives;  already  one  sees  a 
picture  of  busy  human  industry. 

IV.  The  Mousterian  Culture  is  found  on  all  continents,  in  espe- 
cial association  with  the  remains  of  Neanderthal  Man,  about  40,000 
B.C.   Among  these  flints  the  coup-de-poing  is  comparatively  rare, 
as  something  already  ancient  and  superseded.    The  implements 
were  formed  from  a  large  single  flake,  lighter,  sharper  and  shape- 
lier than  before,  and  by  skilful  hands  with  a  long-established  tra- 
dition of  artisanship.   Higher  in  the  Pleistocene  strata  of  southern 
France  appear  the  remains  of 

V.  The  Aurignacian  Culture,  ca.  25,000  B.C.,  the  first  of  the 
postglacial  industries,  and  the  first  known  culture  of  Cro-Magnon 
Man.   Bone  tools— pins,  anvils,  polishers,  etc.— were  now  added  to 
those  of  stone;  and  art  appeared  in  the  form  of  crude  engravings 
on  the  rocks,  or  simple  figurines  in  high  relief,  mostly  of  nude 
women/  At  a  higher  stage  of  Cro-Magnon  development 


VI.  The  Solutrean  Culture  appears  ca.  20,000  B.C.,  in  France, 
Spain,   Czechoslovakia  and  Poland:    points,  planes,   drills,   saws, 
javelins  and  spears  were  added  to  the  tools  and  weapons  of  Aurig- 
nacian  days;  slim,  sharp  needles  were  made  of  bone,  many  imple- 
ments were  carved  out  of  reindeer  horn,  and  the  reindeer's  antlers 
were  engraved  occasionally  with  animal  figures  appreciably  supe- 
rior to  Aurignacian  art.    Finally,  at  the  peak  of  Cro-Magnon 

VII.  The   Magdalenian   Culture  appears   throughout   Europe 
about  16,000  B.C.;  in  industry  it  was  characterized  by  a  large  assort- 
ment of  delicate  utensils  in  ivory,  bone  and  horn,  culminating  in 
humble  but  perfect  needles  and  pins;  in  art  it  was  the  age  of  the 
Altamira  drawings,  the  most  perfect  and  subtle  accomplishment  of 
Cro-Magnon  Man. 

Through  these  cultures  of  the  Old  Stone  Age  prehistoric  man  laid  the 
bases  of  those  handicrafts  which  were  to  remain  part  of  the  European 
heritage  until  the  Industrial  Revolution.  Their  transmission  to  the  classic  and 
modern  civilizations  was  made  easier  by  the  wide  spread  of  paleolithic  in- 
dustries. The  skull  and  cave-painting  found  in  Rhodesia  in  1921,  the  flints  dis- 
covered in  Egypt  by  De  Morgan  in  1896,  the  paleolithic  finds  of  Seton-Karr 
in  Somaliland,  the  Old  Stone  Age  deposits  in  the  basin  of  the  Fayum,*  and 
the  Still  Bay  Culture  of  South  Africa  indicate  that  the  Dark  Continent  went 
through  approximately  the  same  prehistoric  periods  of  development  in  the  art 
of  flaking  stone  as  those  which  we  have  outlined  in  Europe;8  perhaps,  indeed, 
the  quasi-Aurignacian  remains  in  Tunis  and  Algiers  strengthen  the  hypothesis 
of  an  African  origin  or  stopping-point  for  the  Cro-Magnon  race,  and  there- 
fore for  European  man.'  Paleolithic  implements  have  been  dug  up  in  Syria, 
India,  China,  Siberia,  and  other  sections  of  Asia;10  Andrews  and  his  Jesuit 
predecessors  came  upon  them  in  Mongolia;"  Neanderthal  skeletons  and  Mous- 
terian-Aurignacian  flints  have  been  exhumed  in  great  abundance  in  Palestine; 
and  we  have  seen  how  the  oldest  known  human  remains  and  implements  have 
lately  been  unearthed  near  Peiping.  Bone  tools  have  been  discovered  in 
Nebraska  which  some  patriotic  authorities  would  place  at  500,000  B.C.;  arrow- 
heads have  been  found  in  Oklahoma  and  New  Mexico  which  their  finders 
assure  us  were  made  in  350,000  B.C.  So  vast  was  the  bridge  by  which  pre- 
historic transmitted  the  foundations  of  civilization  to  historic  man. 

*  An  oasis  west  of  the  Middle  Nile. 


2.   Arts  of  the  Old  Stone  Age 
Tools— Fire— Painting— Sculpture 

If  now  we  sum  up  the  implements  fashioned  by  paleolithic  man  we  shall 
gain  a  clearer  idea  of  his  life  than  by  giving  loose  rein  to  our  fancy.  It  was 
natural  that  a  stone  in  the  fist  should  be  the  first  tool;  many  an  animal 
could  have  taught  that  to  man.  So  the  coup-de-pomg—z  rock  sharp  at 
one  end,  round  at  the  other  to  fit  the  palm  of  the  hand— became  for  pri- 
meval man  hammer,  axe,  chisel,  scraper,  knife  and  saw;  even  to  this  day 
the  word  hammer  means,  etymologically,  a  stone.13  Gradually  these  spe- 
cific tools  were  differentiated  out  of  the  one  homogeneous  form:  holes 
were  bored  to  attach  a  handle;  teeth  were  inserted  to  make  a  saw,  branches 
were  tipped  with  the  coup-de-poing  to  make  a  pick,  an  arrow  or  a  spear. 
The  scraper-stone  that  had  the  shape  of  a  shell  became  a  shovel  or  a  hoe; 
the  rough-surfaced  stone  became  a  file;  the  stone  in  a  sling  became  a 
weapon  of  war  that  would  survive  even  classical  antiquity.  Given  bone, 
wood  and  ivory  as  well  as  stone,  and  paleolithic  man  made  himself  a 
varied  assortment  of  weapons  and  tools:  polishers,  mortars,  axes,  planes, 
scrapers,  drills,  lamps,  knives,  chisels,  choppers,  lances,  anvils,  etchers, 
daggers,  fish-hooks,  harpoons,  wedges,  awls,  pins,  and  doubtless  many 
more.14  Every  day  he  stumbled  upon  new  knowledge,  and  sometimes  he 
had  the  wit  to  develop  his  chance  discoveries  into  purposeful  inventions. 

But  his  great  achievement  was  fire.  Darwin  has  pointed  out  how  the 
hot  lava  of  volcanoes  might  have  taught  men  the  art  of  fire;  according  to 
-flSschylus,  Prometheus  established  it  by  igniting  a  narthex  stalk  in  the 
burning  crater  of  a  volcano  on  the  isle  of  Lcmnos."  Among  Neanderthal 
remains  we  find  bits  of  charcoal  and  charred  bones;  man-made  fire,  then, 
is  at  least  40,000  years  old. "  Cro-Magnon  man  ground  stone  bowls  to  hold 
the  grease  that  he  burned  to  give  him  light:  the  lamp,  therefore,  is  also  of 
considerable  age.  Presumably  it  was  fire  that  enabled  man  to  meet  the 
threat  of  cold  from  the  advancing  ice;  fire  that  left  him  free  to  sleep  on 
the  earth  at  night,  since  animals  dreaded  the  marvel  as  much  as  primitive 
men  worshiped  it;  fire  that  conquered  the  dark  and  began  that  lessening  of 
fear  which  is  one  of  the  golden  threads  in  the  not  quite  golden  web  of 
history;  fire  that  created  the  old  and  honorable  art  of  cooking,  extending 
the  diet  of  man  to  a  thousand  foods  inedible  before;  fire  that  led  at  last 


to  the  fusing  of  metals,  and  the  only  real  advance  in  technology  from 
Cro-Magnon  days  to  the  Industrial  Revolution." 

Strange  to  relate— and  as  if  to  illustrate  Gautier's  lines  on  robust  art 
outlasting  emperors  and  states— our  clearest  relics  of  paleolithic  man  are 
fragments  of  his  art.  Sixty  years  ago  Senor  Marcelino  de  Sautuola  came  up- 
on a  large  cave  on  his  estate  at  Altamira,  in  northern  Spain.  For  thousands  of 
years  the  entrance  had  been  hermetically  sealed  by  fallen  rocks  naturally 
cemented  with  stalagmite  deposits.  Blasts  for  new  construction  accident- 
ally opened  the  entrance.  Three  years  later  Sautuola  explored  the  cave, 
and  noticed  some  curious  markings  on  the  walls.  One  day  his  little  daugh- 
ter accompanied  him.  Not  compelled,  like  her  father,  to  stoop  as  she 
walked  through  the  cave,  she  could  look  up  and  observe  the  ceiling.  There 
she  saw,  in  vague  outline,  the  painting  of  a  great  bison,  magnificently 
colored  and  drawn.  Many  other  drawings  were  found  on  closer  exami- 
nation of  the  ceiling  and  the  walls.  When,  in  1880,  Sautuola  published 
his  report  on  these  observations,  archeologists  greeted  him  with  genial 
scepticism.  Some  did  him  the  honor  of  going  to  inspect  the  drawings, 
only  to  pronounce  them  the  forgery  of  a  hoaxer.  For  thirty  years  this 
quite  reasonable  incredulity  persisted.  Then  the  discovery  of  other  draw- 
ings in  caves  generally  conceded  to  be  prehistoric  (from  their  contents  of 
unpolished  flint  tools,  and  polished  ivory  and  bone)  confirmed  Sautuola's 
judgment;  but  Sautuola  now  was  dead.  Geologists  came  to  Altamira  and 
testified,  with  the  unanimity  of  hindsight,  that  the  stalagmite  coating  on 
many  of  the  drawings  was  a  paleolithic  deposit."  General  opinion  now 
places  these  Altamira  drawings— and  the  greater  portion  of  extant  pre- 
historic art— in  the  Magdalenian  culture,  some  1 6,000  B.C."  Paintings  slight- 
ly later  in  time,  but  still  of  the  Old  Stone  Age,  have  been  found  in  many 
caves  of  France.* 

Most  often  the  subjects  of  these  drawings  are  animals— reindeers,  mam- 
moths, horses,  boars,  bears,  etc.;  these,  presumably,  were  dietetic  luxuries, 
and  therefore  favorite  objects  of  the  chase.  Sometimes  the  animals  are 
transfixed  with  arrows;  these,  in  the  view  of  Frazer  and  Reinach,  were 
intended  as  magic  images  that  would  bring  the  animal  under  the  power, 
and  into  the  stomach,  of  the  artist  or  the  hunter."0  Conceivably  they  were 
just  plain  art,  drawn  with  the  pure  joy  of  esthetic  creation;  the  crudest 

*  Combarelles,  Les  Eyzies,  Font  de  Gaume,  etc. 


representation  should  have  sufficed  the  purposes  of  magic,  whereas  these 
paintings  are  often  of  such  delicacy,  power  and  skill  as  to  suggest  the  un- 
happy thought  that  art,  in  this  field  at  least,  has  not  advanced  much  in  the 
long  course  of  human  history.  Here  is  life,  action,  nobility,  conveyed  over- 
whelmingly with  one  brave  line  or  two;  here  a  single  stroke  (or  is  it  that 
the  others  have  faded? )  creates  a  living,  charging  beast.  Will  Leonardo's 
Last  Supper,  or  El  Greco's  Assumption,  bear  up  as  well  as  these  Cro- 
Magnon  paintings  after  twenty  thousand  years? 

Painting  is  a  sophisticated  art,  presuming  many  centuries  of  mental  and 
technical  development.  If  we  may  accept  current  theory  (which  it  is  always  a 
perilous  thing  to  do),  painting  developed  from  statuary,  by  a  passage  from 
carving  in  the  round  to  bas-relief  and  thence  to  mere  outline  and  coloring; 
painting  is  sculpture  minus  a  dimension.  The  intermediate  prehistoric  art  is 
well  represented  by  an  astonishingly  vivid  bas-relief  of  an  archer  (or  a  spear- 
man) on  the  Aurignacian  cliffs  at  Laussel  in  France.21  In  a  cave  in  Ariegc, 
France,  Louis  Begouen  discovered,  among  other  Magdalenian  relics,  several 
ornamental  handles  carved  out  of  reindeer  antlers;  one  of  these  is  of  mature 
and  excellent  workmanship,  as  if  the  art  had  already  generations  of  tradition 
and  development  behind  it.  Throughout  the  prehistoric  Mediterranean- 
Egypt,  Crete,  Italy,  France  and  Spain— countless  figures  of  fat  little  women 
are  found,  which  indicate  either  a  worship  of  motherhood  or  an  African 
conception  of  beauty.  Stone  statues  of  a  wild  horse,  a  reindeer  and  a  mam- 
moth have  been  unearthed  in  Czechoslovakia,  among  remains  uncertainly 
ascribed  to  30,000  B.C.* 

The  whole  interpretation  of  history  as  progress  falters  when  we  con- 
sider that  these  statues,  bas-reliefs  and  paintings,  numerous  though  they 
are,  may  be  but  an  infinitesimal  fraction  of  the  art  that  expressed  or  adorned 
the  life  of  primeval  man.  What  remains  is  found  in  caves,  where  the 
elements  were  in  some  measure  kept  at  bay;  it  does  not  follow  that  pre- 
historic men  were  artists  only  when  they  were  in  caves.  They  may  have 
carved  as  sedulously  and  ubiquitously  as  the  Japanese,  and  may  have 
fashioned  statuary  as  abundantly  as  the  Greeks;  they  may  have  painted 
not  only  the  rocks  in  their  caverns,  but  textiles,  wood,  everything—not 
excepting  themselves.  They  may  have  created  masterpieces  far  superior  to 
the  fragments  that  survive.  In  one  grotto  a  tube  was  discovered,  made  from 
the  bones  of  a  reindeer,  and  filled  with  pigment;28  in  another  a  stone  palette 


was  picked  up  still  thick  with  red  ochre  paint  despite  the  transit  of  two 
hundred  centuries.*4  Apparently  the  arts  were  highly  developed  and 
widely  practised  eighteen  thousand  years  ago.  Perhaps  there  was  a  class 
of  professional  artists  among  paleolithic  men;  perhaps  there  were  Bohem- 
ians starving  in  the  less  respectable  caves,  denouncing  the  commercial  bour- 
geoisie, plotting  the  death  of  academies,  and  forging  antiques. 


The  Kitchen-Middens  —  The  Lake-Dwellers  —  The  coming  of 
agriculture  —  The  taming  of  animals  —  Technology— Neo- 
lithic weaving— pottery— building— transport— religion— 
science  —  Summary  of  the  prehistoric  preparation 
for  civilization 

At  various  times  in  the  last  one  hundred  years  great  heaps  of  seemingly 
prehistoric  refuse  have  been  found,  in  France,  Sardinia,  Portugal,  Brazil,  Japan 
and  Manchuria,  but  above  all  in  Denmark,  where  they  received  that  queer 
name  of  Kitchen-Middens  (Kjokken-moddinger)  by  which  such  ancient 
messes  are  now  generally  known.  These  rubbish  heaps  are  composed  of 
shells,  especially  of  oysters,  mussels  and  periwinkles;  of  the  bones  of  various 
land  and  marine  animals;  of  tools  and  weapons  of  horn,  bone  and  unpolished 
stone;  and  of  mineral  remains  like  charcoal,  ashes  and  broken  pottery.  These 
unprepossessing  relics  are  apparently  signs  of  a  culture  formed  about  the 
eighth  millennium  before  Christ— later  than  the  true  paleolithic,  and  yet  not 
properly  neolithic,  because  not  yet  arrived  at  the  use  of  polished  stone.  We 
know  hardly  anything  of  the  men  who  left  these  remains,  except  that  they 
had  a  certain  catholic  taste.  Along  with  the  slightly  older  culture  of  the  Mas- 
d'Azil,  in  France,  the  Middens  represent  a  "mesolithic"  (middle-stone)  or 
transition  period  between  the  paleolithic  and  the  neolithic  age. 

In  the  year  1854,  the  winter  being  unusually  dry,  the  level  of  the  Swiss 
lakes  sank,  and  revealed  another  epoch  in  prehistory.  At  some  two  hun- 
dred localities  on  these  lakes  piles  were  found  which  had  stood  in  place 
under  the  water  for  from  thirty  to  seventy  centuries.  The  piles  were  so 
arranged  as  to  indicate  that  small  villages  had  been  built  upon  them,  per- 
haps for  isolation  or  defense;  each  was  connected  with  the  land  only  by  a 
narrow  bridge,  whose  foundations,  in  some  cases,  were  still  in  place;  here 
and  there  even  the  framework  of  the  houses  had  survived  the  patient  play 


of  the  waters.*  Amid  these  ruins  were  tools  of  bone  and  polished  stone 
which  became  for  archeologists  the  distinguishing  mark  of  the  New  Stone 
Age  that  flourished  some  10,000  B.C.  in  Asia,  and  some  5000  B.C.  in  Europe.8* 
Akin  to  these  remains  are  the  gigantic  tumuli  left  in  the  valleys  of  the 
Mississippi  and  its  tributaries  by  the  strange  race  that  we  call  the  Mound- 
Builders,  and  of  which  we  know  nothing  except  that  in  these  mounds, 
shaped  in  the  form  of  altars,  geometric  figures,  or  totem  animals,  are  found 
objects  of  stone,  shell,  bone  and  beaten  metal  which  place  these  mysterious 
men  at  the  end  of  the  neolithic  period. 

If  from  such  remains  we  attempt  to  patch  together  some  picture  of  the 
New  Stone  Age,  we  find  at  once  a  startling  innovation— agriculture.  In  one 
sense  all  human  history  hinges  upon  two  revolutions:  the  neolithic  pas- 
sage from  hunting  to  agriculture,  and  the  modern  passage  from  agriculture 
to  industry;  no  other  revolutions  have  been  quite  as  real  or  basic  as  these. 
The  remains  show  that  the  Lake-Dwellers  ate  wheat,  millet,  rye,  barley 
and  oats,  besides  one  hundred  and  twenty  kinds  of  fruit  and  many  varie- 
ties of  nut."  No  ploughs  have  been  found  in  these  ruins,  probably  because 
the  first  ploughshares  were  of  wood— some  strong  tree-trunk  and  branch 
fitted  with  a  flint  edge;  but  a  neolithic  rock-carving  unmistakably  shows 
a  peasant  guiding  a  plough  drawn  by  two  oxen.30  This  marks  the  appear- 
ance of  one  of  the  epochal  inventions  of  history.  Before  agriculture  the 
earth  could  have  supported  (in  the  rash  estimate  of  Sir  Arthur  Keith)  only 
some  twenty  million  men,  and  the  lives  of  these  were  shortened  by  the 
mortality  of  the  chase  and  war;81  now  began  that  multiplication  of  man- 
kind which  definitely  confirmed  man's  mastery  of  the  planet. 

Meanwhile  the  men  of  the  New  Stone  Age  were  establishing  another  of 
the  foundations  of  civilization:  the  domestication  and  breeding  of  animals. 
Doubtless  this  was  a  long  process,  probably  antedating  the  neolithic 
period.  A  certain  natural  sociability  may  have  contributed  to  the  associa- 
tion of  man  and  animal,  as  we  may  still  see  in  the  delight  that  primitive 
people  take  in  taming  wild  beasts,  and  in  filling  their  huts  with  monkeys, 
parrots  and  similar  companions.88  The  oldest  bones  in  the  neolithic  remains 

*  Remains  of  similar  lake  dwellings  have  been  found  in  France,  Italy,  Scotland,  Russia, 
North  America,  India,  and  elsewhere.  Such  villages  still  exist  in  Borneo,  Sumatra,  New 
Guinea,  etc.98  Venezuela  owes  its  name  (Little  Venice)  to  the  fact  that  when  Alonso  de 
Ojeda  discovered  it  for  Europe  (1499)  he  found  the  natives  living  in  pile-dwellings  on 
Lake  Maracaibo." 



(ca.  8000  B.C.)  are  those  of  the  dog—the  most  ancient  and  honorable  com- 
panion of  the  human  race.  A  little  later  (ca.  6000  B.C.)  came  the  goat,  the 
sheep,  the  pig  and  the  ox.88  Finally  the  horse,  which  to  paleolithic  man 
had  been,  if  we  may  judge  from  the  cave  drawings,  merely  a  beast  of  prey, 
was  taken  into  camp,  tamed,  and  turned  into  a  beloved  slave;84  in  a  hundred 
ways  he  was  now  put  to  work  to  increase  the  leisure,  the  wealth,  and  the 
power  of  man.  The  new  lord  of  the  earth  began  to  replenish  his  food- 
supply  by  breeding  as  well  as  hunting;  and  perhaps  he  learned,  in  this  same 
neolithic  age,  to  use  cow's  milk  as  food. 

Neolithic  inventors  slowly  improved  and  extended  the  tool-chest  and 
armory  of  man.  Here  among  the  remains  are  pulleys,  levers,  grindstones, 
awls,  pincers,  axes,  hoes,  ladders,  chisels,  spindles,  looms,  sickles,  saws, 
fish-hooks,  skates,  needles,  brooches  and  pins.85  Here,  above  all,  is  the 
wheel,  another  fundamental  invention  of  mankind,  one  of  the  modest 
essentials  of  industry  and  civilization;  already  in  this  New  Stone  Age  it 
was  developed  into  disc  and  spoked  varieties.  Stones  of  every  sort— even 
obdurate  diorite  and  obsidian—were  ground,  bored,  and  finished  into  a 
polished  form.  Flints  were  mined  on  a  large  scale.  In  the  ruins  of  a  neo- 
lithic mine  at  Brandon,  England,  eight  worn  picks  of  deerhorn  were  found, 
on  whose  dusty  surfaces  were  the  finger-prints  of  the  workmen  who  had 
laid  down  those  tools  ten  thousand  years  ago.  In  Belgium  the  skeleton  of 
such  a  New  Stone  Age  miner,  who  had  been  crushed  by  falling  rock,  was 
discovered  with  his  deerhorn  pick  still  clasped  in  his  hands;"  across  a  hun- 
dred centuries  we  feel  him  as  one  of  us,  and  share  in  weak  imagination  his 
terror  and  agony.  Through  how  many  bitter  millenniums  men  have  been 
tearing  out  of  the  bowels  of  the  earth  the  mineral  bases  of  civilization! 

Having  made  needles  and  pins  man  began  to  weave;  or,  beginning  to  weave, 
he  was  moved  to  make  needles  and  pins.  No  longer  content  to  clothe  himself 
with  the  furs  and  hides  of  beasts,  he  wove  the  wool  of  his  sheep  and  the 
fibres  found  in  the  plants  into  garments  from  which  came  the  robe  of  the 
Hindu,  the  toga  of  the  Greek,  the  skirt  of  the  Egyptian,  and  all  the  fascinat- 
ing gamut  of  human  dress.  Dyes  were  mixed  from  the  juices  of  plants  or  the 
minerals  of  the  earth,  and  garments  were  stained  with  colors  into  luxuries  for 
kings.  At  first  men  seem  to  have  plaited  textiles  as  they  plaited  straw,  by 
interlacing  one  fibre  with  another;  then  they  pierced  holes  into  animal 
skins,  and  bound  the  skins  with  coarse  fibres  passing  through  the  holes,  as 
with  the  corsets  of  yesterday  and  the  shoes  of  today;  gradually  the  fibres 


were  refined  into  thread,  and  sewing  became  one  of  the  major  arts  of  woman- 
kind. The  stone  distaffs  and  spindles  among  the  neolithic  ruins  reveal  one  of 
the  great  origins  of  human  industry.  Even  mirrors  are  found  in  these  re- 
mains;*7 everything  was  ready  for  civilization. 

No  pottery  has  been  discovered  in  the  earlier  paleolithic  graves;  fragments 
of  it  appear  in  the  remains  of  the  Magdalenian  culture  in  Belgium,88  but  it 
is  only  in  the  mesolithic  Age  of  the  Kitchen-Middens  that  we  find  any  de- 
veloped use  of  earthenware.  The  origin  of  the  art,  of  course,  is  unknown. 
Perhaps  some  observant  primitive  noticed  that  the  trough  made  by  his  foot 
in  clay  held  water  with  little  seepage;89  perhaps  some  accidental  baking  of  a 
piece  of  wet  clay  by  an  adjoining  fire  gave  him  the  hint  that  fertilized  inven- 
tion, and  revealed  to  him  the  possibilities  of  a  material  so  abounding  in  quan- 
tity, so  pliable  to  the  hand,  and  so  easy  to  harden  with  fire  or  the  sun.  Doubt- 
less he  had  for  thousands  of  years  carried  his  food  and  drink  in  such  natural 
containers  as  gourds  and  coconuts  and  the  shells  of  the  sea;  then  he  had  made 
himself  cups  and  ladles  of  wood  or  stone,  and  baskets  and  hampers  of  rushes 
or  straw;  now  he  made  lasting  vessels  of  baked  clay,  and  created  another  of 
the  major  industries  of  mankind.  So  far  as  the  remains  indicate,  neolithic 
man  did  not  know  the  potter's  wheel;  but  with  his  own  hands  he  fashioned 
clay  into  forms  of  beauty  as  well  as  use,  decorated  it  with  simple  designs,40 
and  made  pottery,  almost  at  the  outset,  not  only  an  industry  but  an  art. 

Here,  too,  we  find  the  first  evidences  of  another  major  industry— building. 
Paleolithic  man  left  no  known  trace  of  any  other  home  than  the  cave.  But 
in  the  neolithic  remains  we  find  such  building  devices  as  the  ladder,  the 
pulley,  the  lever,  and  the  hinge.*1  The  Lake-Dwellers  were  skilful  carpenters, 
fastening  beam  to  pile  with  sturdy  wooden  pins,  or  mortising  them  head  to 
head,  or  strengthening  them  with  crossbeams  notched  into  their  sides.  The 
floors  were  of  clay,  the  walls  of  wattle-work  coated  with  clay,  the  roofs  of 
bark,  straw,  rushes  or  reeds.  With  the  aid  of  the  pulley  and  the  wheel, 
building  materials  were  carried  from  place  to  place,  and  great  stone  founda- 
tions were  laid  for  villages.  Transport,  too,  became  an  industry:  canoes  were 
built,  and  must  have  made  the  lakes  live  with  traffic;  trade  was  carried 
on  over  mountains  and  between  distant  continents.42  Amber,  diorite,  jadeite 
and  obsidian  were  imported  into  Europe  from  afar.48  Similar  words,  letters, 
myths,  pottery  and  designs  betray  the  cultural  contacts  of  diverse  groups  of 
prehistoric  men.44 

Outside  of  pottery  the  New  Stone  Age  has  left  us  no  art,  nothing  to  com- 
pare with  the  painting  and  statuary  of  paleolithic  man.  Here  and  there 
among  the  scenes  of  neolithic  life  from  England  to  China  we  find  circular 
heaps  of  stone  called  dolmens,  upright  monoliths  called  menhirs,  and  gigantic 


cromlechs— stone  structures  of  unknown  purpose— like  those  at  Stonehenge 
or  in  Morbihan.  Probably  we  shall  never  know  the  meaning  or  function  of 
these  megaliths;  presumably  they  are  the  remains  of  altars  and  temples."  For 
neolithic  man  doubtless  had  religions,  myths  with  which  to  dramatize  the 
daily  tragedy  and  victory  of  the  sun,  the  death  and  resurrection  of  the  soil, 
and  the  strange  earthly  influences  of  the  moon;  we  cannot  understand  the 
historic  faiths  unless  we  postulate  such  prehistoric  origins.46  Perhaps  the 
arrangement  of  the  stones  was  determined  by  astronomic  considerations,  and 
suggests,  as  Schneider  thinks,  an  acquaintance  with  the  calendar.47  Some 
scientific  knowledge  was  present,  for  certain  neolithic  skulls  give  evidence  of 
trephining;  and  a  few  skeletons  reveal  limbs  apparently  broken  and  reset.48 

We  cannot  properly  estimate  the  achievements  of  prehistoric  men,  for 
we  must  guard  against  describing  their  life  with  imagination  that  tran- 
scends the  evidence,  while  on  the  other  hand  we  suspect  that  time  has 
destroyed  remains  that  would  have  narrowed  the  gap  between  primeval 
and  modern  man.  Even  so,  the  surviving  record  of  Stone  Age  advances  is 
impressive  enough:  paleolithic  tools,  fire,  and  art;  neolithic  agriculture, 
animal  breeding,  weaving,  pottery,  building,  transport,  and  medicine,  and 
the  definite  domination  and  wider  peopling  of  the  earth  by  the  human 
race.  All  the  bases  had  been  laid;  everything  had  been  prepared  for  the 
historic  civilizations  except  (perhaps)  metals,  writing  and  the  state.  Let 
men  find  a  way  to  record  their  thoughts  and  achievements,  and  thereby 
transmit  them  more  securely  across  the  generations,  and  civilization  would 


1.   The  Coming  of  Metals 
Copper  —  Bronze  —  Iron 

When  did  the  use  of  metals  come  to  man,  and  how?  Again  we  do  not 
know;  we  merely  surmise  that  it  came  by  accident,  and  we  presume,  from 
the  absence  of  earlier  remains,  that  it  began  towards  the  end  of  the  Neolithic 
Age.  Dating  this  end  about  4000  B.C.,  we  have  a  perspective  in  which  the 
Age  of  Metals  (and  of  writing  and  civilization)  is  a  mere  six  thousand  years 
appended  to  an  Age  of  Stone  lasting  at  least  forty  thousand  years,  and  an 
Age  of  Man  lasting*  a  million  years.  So  young  is  the  subject  of  our  history. 

The  oldest  known  metal  to  be  adapted  to  human  use  was  copper.  We  find 
it  in  a  Lake-Dwelling  at  Robenhausen,  Switzerland,  ca.  6000  B.C.;4*  in  pre- 

*  If  we  accept  "Peking  Man"  as  early  Pleistocene. 


historic  Mesopotamia  ca.  4500  B.C.;  in  the  Badarian  graves  of  Egypt  towards 
4000  B.C.;  in  the  ruins  of  Ur  ca.  3100  B.C.;  and  in  the  relics  of  the  North 
American  Mound-Builders  at  an  unknown  age.80  The  Age  of  Metals  began 
not  with  their  discovery,  but  with  their  transformation  to  human  purpose  by 
fire  and  working.  Metallurgists  believe  that  the  first  fusing  of  copper  out 
of  its  stony  ore  came  by  haphazard  when  a  primeval  camp  fire  melted  the 
copper  lurking  in  the  rocks  that  enclosed  the  flames;  such  an  event  has  often 
been  seen  at  primitive  camp  fires  in  our  own  day.  Possibly  this  was  the  hint 
which,  many  times  repeated,  led  early  man,  so  long  content  with  refractory 
stone,  to  seek  in  this  malleable  metal  a  substance  more  easily  fashioned  into 
durable  weapons  and  tools.61  Presumably  the  metal  was  first  used  as  it  came 
from  the  profuse  but  careless  hand  of  nature— sometimes  nearly  pure,  most 
often  grossly  alloyed.  Much  later,  doubtless— apparently  about  3500  B.C.  in 
the  region  around  the  Eastern  Mediterranean— men  discovered  the  art  of 
smelting,  of  extracting  metals  from  their  ores.  Then,  towards  1500  B.C.  (as 
we  may  judge  from  bas-reliefs  on  the  tomb  of  Rekh-mara  in  Egypt),  they 
proceeded  to  cast  metal:  dropping  the  molten  copper  into  a  clay  or  sand 
receptacle,  they  let  it  cool  into  some  desired  form  like  a  spcar-hcad  or  an 
axe.M  That  process,  once  discovered,  was  applied  to  a  great  variety  of  metals, 
and  provided  man  with  those  doughty  elements  that  were  to  build  his  great- 
est industries,  and  give  him  his  conquest  of  the  earth,  the  sea,  and  the  air. 
Perhaps  it  was  because  the  Eastern  Mediterranean  lands  were  rich  in  copper 
that  vigorous  new  cultures  arose,  in  the  fourth  millennium  B.C.,  in  Elam,  Meso- 
potamia and  Egypt,  and  spread  thence  in  all  directions  to  transform  the 

But  copper  by  itself  was  soft,  admirably  pliable  for  some  purposes  (what 
would  our  electrified  age  do  without  it?),  but  too  weak  for  the  heavier  tasks 
of  peace  and  war;  an  alloy  was  needed  to  harden  it.  Though  nature  sug- 
gested many,  and  often  gave  man  copper  already  mixed  and  hardened  with 
tin  or  zinc— forming,  therefore,  ready-made  bronze  or  brass— he  may  have 
dallied  for  centuries  before  taking  the  next  step:  the  deliberate  fusing  of 
metal  with  metal  to  make  compounds  more  suited  to  his  needs.  The  dis- 
covery is  at  least  five  thousand  years  old,  for  bronze  is  found  in  Cretan  re- 
mains of  3000  B.C.,  in  Egyptian  remains  of  2800  B.C.,  and  in  the  second  city 
of  Troy  2000  B.C.M  We  can  no  longer  speak  strictly  of  an  "Age  of  Bronze," 
for  the  metal  came  to  different  peoples  at  diverse  epochs,  and  the  term 
would  therefore  be  without  chronological  meaning;"  furthermore,  some  cul- 
tures—like those  of  Finland,  northern  Russia,  Polynesia,  central  Africa,  south- 
ern India,  North  America,  Australia  and  Japan— passed  over  the  Bronze  Age 
directly  from  stone  to  iron;""  and  in  those  cultures  where  bronze  appears  it 
seems  to  have  had  a  subordinate  place  as  a  luxury  of  priests,  aristocrats  and 


kings,  while  commoners  had  still  to  be  content  with  stone.87  Even  the  terms 
"Old  Stone  Age"  and  "New  Stone  Age"  are  precariously  relative,  and  de- 
scribe conditions  rather  than  times;  to  this  day  many  primitive  peoples  (e.g., 
the  Eskimos  and  the  Polynesian  Islanders)  remain  in  the  Age  of  Stone,  know- 
ing iron  only  as  a  delicacy  brought  to  them  by  explorers.  Captain  Cook 
bought  several  pigs  for  a  sixpenny  nail  when  he  landed  in  New  Zealand  in 
1778;  and  another  traveler  described  the  inhabitants  of  Dog  Island  as  "covet- 
ous chiefly  of  iron,  so  as  to  want  to  take  the  nails  out  of  the  ship."08 

Bronze  is  strong  and  durable,  but  the  copper  and  tin  which  were  needed 
to  make  it  were  not  available  in  such  convenient  quantities  and  locations  as 
to  provide  man  with  the  best  material  for  industry  and  war.  Sooner  or  later 
iron  had  to  come;  and  it  is  one  of  the  anomalies  of  history  that,  being  so 
abundant,  it  did  not  appear  at  least  as  early  as  copper  and  bronze.  Men  may 
have  begun  the  art  by  making  weapons  out  of  meteoric  iron  as  the  Mound- 
Builders  seem  to  have  done,  and  as  some  primitive  peoples  do  to  this  day; 
then,  perhaps,  they  melted  it  from  the  ore  by  fire,  and  hammered  it  into 
wrought  iron.  Fragments  of  apparently  meteoric  iron  have  been  found  in 
predynastic  Egyptian  tombs;  and  Babylonian  inscriptions  mention  iron  as  a 
costly  rarity  in  Hammurabi's  capital  (2100  B.C.).  An  iron  foundry  perhaps 
four  thousand  years  old  has  been  discovered  in  Northern  Rhodesia;  mining  in 
South  Africa  is  no  modern  invention.  The  oldest  wrought  iron  known  is  a 
group  of  knives  found  at  Gerar,  in  Palestine,  and  dated  by  Petrie  about 
1350  B.C.  A  century  later  the  metal  appears  in  Egypt,  in  the  reign  of  the 
great  Rameses  II;  still  another  century  and  it  is  found  in  the  ^Egean.  In 
Western  Europe  it  turns  up  first  at  Hallstatt,  Austria,  ca.  900  B.C.,  and  in 
the  La  Tine  industry  in  Switzerland  ca.  500  B.C.  It  entered  India  with  Alex- 
ander, America  with  Columbus,  Oceania  with  Cook.80  In  this  leisurely  way, 
century  by  century,  iron  has  gone  about  its  rough  conquest  of  the  earth. 

2.    Writing 

Its  possible  ceramic  origins  —  The  "Mediterranean  Signary"  — 
Hieroglyphics  —  Alphabets 

But  by  far  the  most  important  step  in  the  passage  to  civilization  was 
writing.  Bits  of  pottery  from  neolithic  remains  show,  in  some  cases,  painted 
lines  which  several  students  have  interpreted  as  signs.80  This  is  doubtful 
enough;  but  it  is  possible  that  writing,  in  the  broad  sense  of  graphic  sym- 
bols of  specific  thoughts,  began  with  marks  impressed  by  nails  or  fingers 
upon  the  still  soft  clay  to  adorn  or  identify  pottery.  In  the  earliest  Sumer- 
ian  hieroglyphics  the  pictograph  for  bird  bears  a  suggestive  resemblance 


to  the  bird  decorations  on  the  oldest  pottery  at  Susa,  in  Elam;  and  the 
earliest  pictograph  for  grain  is  taken  directly  from  the  geometrical  grain- 
decoration  of  Susan  and  Sumerian  vases.  The  linear  script  of  Sumeria,  on 
its  first  appearance  (ca.  3600  B.C.),  is  apparently  an  abbreviated  form  of 
the  signs  and  pictures  painted  or  impressed  upon  the  primitive  pottery  of 
lower  Mesopotamia  and  Elam."0*  Writing,  like  painting  and  sculpture,  is 
probably  in  its  origin  a  ceramic  art;  it  began  as  a  form  of  etching  and 
drawing,  and  the  same  clay  that  gave  vases  to  the  potter,  figures  to  the 
sculptor  and  bricks  to  the  builder,  supplied  writing  materials  to  the  scribe. 
From  such  a  beginning  to  the  cuneiform  writing  of  Mesopotamia  would 
be  an  intelligible  and  logical  development. 

The  oldest  graphic  symbols  known  to  us  are  those  found  by  Flinders 
Petrie  on  shards,  vases  and  stones  discovered  in  the  prehistoric  tombs  of 
Egypt,  Spain  and  the  Near  East,  to  which,  with  his  usual  generosity,  he 
attributes  an  age  of  seven  thousand  years.  This  "Mediterranean  Signary" 
numbered  some  three  hundred  signs;  most  of  them  were  the  same  in  all 
localities,  indicating  commercial  bonds  from  one  end  of  the  Mediterranean  to 
the  other  as  far  back  as  5000  B.C.  They  were  not  pictures  but  chiefly  mer- 
cantile symbols— marks  of  property,  quantity,  or  other  business  memoranda; 
the  berated  bourgeoisie  may  take  consolation  in  the  thought  that  literature 
originated  in  bills  of  lading.  The  signs  were  not  letters,  since  they  repre- 
sented entire  words  or  ideas;  but  many  of  them  were  astonishingly  like 
letters  of  the  "Phoenician"  alphabet.  Petrie  concludes  that  "a  wide  body  of 
signs  had  been  gradually  brought  into  use  in  primitive  times  for  various  pur- 
poses. These  were  interchanged  by  trade,  and  spread  from  land  to  land, 
.  .  .  until  a  couple  of  dozen  signs  triumphed  and  became  common  property 
to  a  group  of  trading  communities,  while  the  local  survivals  of  other  forms 
were  gradually  extinguished  in  isolated  seclusion."61  That  this  signary  was  the 
source  of  the  alphabet  is  an  interesting  theory,  which  Professor  Petrie  has  the 
distinction  of  holding  alone." 

Whatever  may  have  been  the  development  of  these  early  commercial 
symbols,  there  grew  up  alongside  them  a  form  of  writing  which  was  a 
branch  of  drawing  and  painting,  and  conveyed  connected  thought  by 
pictures.  Rocks  near  Lake  Superior  still  bear  remains  of  the  crude  pictures 
with  which  the  American  Indians  proudly  narrated  for  posterity,  or  more 
probably  for  their  associates,  the  story  of  their  crossing  the  mighty  lake.8* 
A  similar  evolution  of  drawing  into  writing  seems  to  have  taken  place 
throughout  the  Mediterranean  world  at  the  end  of  the  Neolithic  Age. 

106  %         THE    STORY    OF    CIVILIZATION  (CHAP.  VI 

Certainly  by  3600  B.C.,  and  probably  long  before  that,  Elam,  Sumeria  and 
Egypt  had  developed  a  system  of  thought-pictures,  called  hieroglyphics 
because  practised  chiefly  by  the  priests.04  A  similar  system  appeared  in 
Crete  ca.  2500  B.C.  We  shall  see  later  how  these  hieroglyphics,  represent- 
ing thoughts,  were,  by  the  corruption  of  use,  schematized  and  convention- 
alized into  syllabaries— i.e.,  collections  of  signs  indicating  syllables;  and  how 
at  last  signs  were  used  to  indicate  not  the  whole  syllable  but  its  initial 
sound,  and  therefore  became  letters.  Such  alphabetic  writing  probably 
dates  back  to  3000  B.C.  in  Egypt;  in  Crete  it  appears  ca.  1600  B.C."  The 
Phoenicians  did  not  create  the  alphabet,  they  marketed  it;  taking  it  appar- 
ently from  Egypt  and  Crete,00  they  imported  it  piecemeal  to  Tyre,  Sidon 
and  Byblos,  and  exported  it  to  every  city  on  the  Mediterranean;  they  were 
the  middlemen,  not  the  producers,  of  the  alphabet.  By  the  time  of  Homer 
the  Greeks  were  taking  over  this  Phoenician— or  the  allied  Aramaic— alpha- 
bet, and  were  calling  it  by  the  Semitic  names  of  the  first  two  letters 
(Alpha,  Beta;  Hebrew  Aleph,  Beth).m 

Writing  seems  to  be  a  product  and  convenience  of  commerce;  here 
again  culture  may  see  how  much  it  owes  to  trade.  When  the  priests  de- 
vised a  system  of  pictures  with  which  to  write  their  magical,  ceremonial 
and  medical  formulas,  the  secular  and  clerical  strains  in  history,  usually 
in  conflict,  merged  for  a  moment  to  produce  the  greatest  human  invention 
since  the  coming  of  speech.  The  development  of  writing  almost  created 
civilization  by  providing  a  means  for  the  recording  and  transmission  of 
knowledge,  the  accumulation  of  science,  the  growth  of  literature,  and  the 
spread  of  peace  and  order  among  varied  but  communicating  tribes  brought 
by  one  language  under  a  single  state.  The  earliest  appearance  of  writing 
marks  that  ever-receding  point  at  which  history  begins. 

3.   Lost  Civilizations 
Polynesia  —  "Atlantis" 

In  approaching  now  the  history  of  civilized  nations  we  must  note  that 
not  only  shall  we  be  selecting  a  mere  fraction  of  each  culture  for  our 
study,  but  we  shall  be  describing  perhaps  a  minority  of  the  civilizations  that 
have  probably  existed  on  the  earth.  We  cannot  entirely  ignore  the  legends, 
current  throughout  history,  of  civilizations  once  great  and  cultured,  de- 
stroyed by  some  catastrophe  of  nature  or  war,  and  leaving  not  a  wrack 


behind;  our  recent  exhuming  of  the  civilizations  of  Crete,  Sumeria  and 
Yucatan  indicates  how  true  such  tales  may  be. 

The  Pacific  contains  the  ruins  of  at  least  one  of  these  lost  civiliza- 
tions. The  gigantic  statuary  of  Easter  Island,  the  Polynesian  tradition  of 
powerful  nations  and  heroic  warriors  once  ennobling  Samoa  and  Tahiti, 
the  artistic  ability  and  poetic  sensitivity  of  their  present  inhabitants,  indi- 
cate a  glory  departed,  a  people  not  rising  to  civilization  but  fallen  from 
a  high  estate.  And  in  the  Atlantic,  from  Iceland  to  the  South  Pole,  the 
raised  central  bed  of  the  oceans*  lends  some  support  to  the  legend  so 
fascinatingly  transmitted  to  us  by  Plato,88  of  a  civilization  that  once  flour- 
ished on  an  island  continent  between  Europe  and  Asia,  and  was  suddenly 
lost  when  a  geological  convulsion  swallowed  that  continent  into  the  sea. 
Schliemann,  the  resurrector  of  Troy,  believed  that  Atlantis  had  served  as 
a  mediating  link  between  the  cultures  of  Europe  and  Yucatan,  and  that 
Egyptian  civilization  had  been  brought  from  Atlantis.*  Perhaps  America 
itself  was  Atlantis,  and  some  pre-Mayan  culture  may  have  been  in  touch 
with  Africa  and  Europe  in  neolithic  times.  Possibly  every  discovery  is  a 

Certainly  it  is  probable,  as  Aristotle  thought,  that  many  civilizations 
came,  made  great  inventions  and  luxuries,  were  destroyed,  and  lapsed  from 
human  memory.  History,  said  Bacon,  is  the  planks  of  a  shipwreck;  more 
of  the  past  is  lost  than  has  been  saved.  We  console  ourselves  with  the 
thought  that  as  the  individual  memory  must  forget  the  greater  part  of 
experience  in  order  to  be  sane,  so  the  race  has  preserved  in  its  heritage 
only  the  most  vivid  and  impressive- or  is  it  only  the  best-recorded?— of 
its  cultural  experiments.  Even  if  that  racial  heritage  were  but  one  tenth 
as  rich  as  it  is,  no  one  could  possibly  absorb  it  all.  We  shall  find  the  story 
full  enough. 

4.   Cradles  of  Civilization 
Central  Asia  —  Anau  —  Lines  of  Dispersion 

It  is  fitting  that  this  chapter  of  unanswerable  questions  should  end  with 
the  query,  "Where  did  civilization  begin?"— which  is  also  unanswerable. 
If  we  may  trust  the  geologists,  who  deal  with  prehistoric  mists  as  airy  as 

*  A  submarine  plateau,  from  2000  to  3000  metres  below  the  surface,  runs  north  and 
south  through  the  mid-Atlantic,  surrounded  on  both  sides  by  "deeps"  of  5000  to  6000 


any  metaphysics,  the  arid  regions  of  central  Asia  were  once  moist  and  tem- 
perate, nourished  with  great  lakes  and  abundant  streams.70  The  recession 
of  the  last  ice  wave  slowly  dried  up  this  area,  until  the  rainfall  was  insuffi- 
cient to  support  towns  and  states.  City  after  city  was  abandoned  as  men 
fled  west  and  east,  north  and  south,  in  search  of  water;  half  buried  in  the 
desert  lie  ruined  cities  like  Bactra,  which  must  have  held  a  teeming  popu- 
lation within  its  twenty-two  miles  of  circumference.  As  late  as  1868  some 
80,000  inhabitants  of  western  Turkestan  were  forced  to  migrate  because 
their  district  was  being  inundated  by  the  moving  sand.71  There  are  many 
who  believe  that  these  now  dying  regions  saw  the  first  substantial  develop- 
ment of  that  vague  complex  of  order  and  provision,  manners  and  morals, 
comfort  and  culture,  which  constitutes  civilization.71 

In  1907  Pumpelly  unearthed  at  Anau,  in  southern  Turkestan,  pottery 
and  other  remains  of  a  culture  which  he  has  ascribed  to  9000  B.C.,  with  a 
possible  exaggeration  of  four  thousand  years.78  Here  we  find  the  cultiva- 
tion of  wheat,  barley  and  millet,  the  use  of  copper,  the  domestication  of 
animals,  and  the  ornamentation  of  pottery  in  styles  so  conventionalized  as 
to  suggest  an  artistic  background  and  tradition  of  many  centuries.74  Ap- 
parently the  culture  of  Turkestan  was  already  very  old  in  5000  B.C.  Per- 
haps it  had  historians  who  delved  into  its  past  in  a  vain  search  for  the 
origins  of  civilization,  and  philosophers  who  eloquently  mourned  the  de- 
generation of  a  dying  race. 

From  this  center,  if  we  may  imagine  where  we  cannot  know,  a  people 
driven  by  a  rainless  sky  and  betrayed  by  a  desiccated  earth  migrated  in 
three  directions,  bringing  their  arts  and  civilization  with  them.  The  arts,  if 
not  the  race,  reached  eastward  to  China,  Manchuria  and  North  America; 
southward  to  northern  India;  westward  to  Elam,  Sumeria,  Egypt,  even  to 
Italy  and  Spain."  At  Susa,  in  ancient  Elam  (modern  Persia),  remains  have 
been  found  so  similar  in  type  to  those  at  Anau  that  the  re-creative  imagina- 
tion is  almost  justified  in  presuming  cultural  communication  between  Susa 
and  Anau  at  the  dawn  of  civilization  (ca.  4000  B.C.).70  A  like  kinship  of 
early  arts  and  products  suggests  a  like  relationship  and  continuity  be- 
tween prehistoric  Mesopotamia  and  Egypt. 

We  cannot  be  sure  which  of  these  cultures  came  first,  and  it  does  not 
much  matter;  they  were  in  essence  of  one  family  and  one  type.  If  we 
violate  honored  precedents  here  and  place  Elam  and  Sumeria  before  Egypt, 
it  is  from  no  vainglory  of  unconventional  innovation,  but  rather  because 


the  age  of  these  Asiatic  civilizations,  compared  with  those  of  Africa  and 
Europe,  grows  as  our  knowledge  of  them  deepens.  As  the  spades  of 
archeology,  after  a  century  of  victorious  inquiry  along  the  Nile,  pass 
across  Suez  into  Arabia,  Palestine,  Mesopotamia  and  Persia,  it  becomes 
more  probable  with  every  year  of  accumulating  research  that  it  was  the 
rich  delta  of  Mesopotamia's  rivers  that  saw  the  earliest  known  scenes  in 
the  historic  drama  of  civilization. 



"At  that  time  the  gods  called  me,  Hammurabi,  the 
servant  whose  deeds  arc  pleasing,  ....  who  helped 
his  people  in  time  of  need,  who  brought  about  plenty 
and  abundance,  ....  to  prevent  the  strong  from  op- 
pressing the  weak,  ....  to  enlighten  the  land  and 
further  the  welfare  of  the  people." 

Code  of  Hammurabi,  Prologue. 


B.c.  EGYPT 

18000:  Nile  Paleolithic  Culture 
i  oooo :  Nile  Neolithic  Culture 
5000:  Nile  Bronze  Culture 
4241:  Egyptian  Calendar  appears   (?) 
4000:  Badarian  Culture 

3500-2631:  A.  THE  OLD  KINGDOM; 

3500-3100:  I-III  Dynasties 

3100-2965:  IV  Dynasty:  the  Pyramids 

3098-3075:  Khufu  ("Cheops"  of  Herodotus) 

3067-3011:  Khafrc   ("Chcphren") 

3011-2988:  Alenkaure    ("Alycerinus") 

2965-2631:  V-VI  Dynasties 

2738-2644:  Pepi  II  (longest  reign  known) 
The  Feudal  Age 










40000:  Paleolithic  Culture  in  Palestine 
9000:  Bronze  Culture  in  Turkestan 
4500:  Civilization  in  Susa  and  Kish 
3800:  Civilization  in  Crete 
3638:  III  Dynasty  of  Kish 
3600:  Civilization  in  Sumeria 
3200:  Dynasty  of  Akshak  in  Sumeria 
3100:  Ur-nina,  first  (?)  King  of  Lagash 
3089:  IV  Dynasty  of  Kish 
2903:   King  Urukagina  reforms  Lagash 
2897:   Lugal-zaggisi  conquers  Lagash 
2872-2817:  Sargon  I  unites  Sumcria  & 

2795-2739:  Narnm-sin,   King   of  Sumeria  & 


2600    Gudca  King  of  Lagash 
2474-2398:   Golden  Age  of  Ur;   ist  code  of 


2357    Sack  of  Ur  by  the  Elamites 
2169-1926:   1  Babylonian  Dynasty 
2123-2081:   Hammurabi  King  of  Babylon 
2117-2094:   Hammurabi  conquers  Sumeria  & 

El  am 
1926-1703     II  Babylonian  Dynasty 

1900    I  littitc  Civilization  appears 
iSoo:   Civilization   in   Palestine 
1746-1169:  Kassitc  Domination  in  Babylonia 
1716    Rise  of  Assyria  under  Shamshi- 

Adad  II 

1650-1220:  Jewish  Bondage  in  Egypt  (?) 
1600-1360:  Egyptian    Domination    of    Pales- 
tine &  Syria 

1550:  The  Civilization  of  Mitanni 
1461:  Burra-Buriash   I    King  of   Baby- 

:  Age  of  the  Tell-el-Amarna  Correspondence;  Revolt  of  Western  Asia  against  Egypt 
A — ,„! — _ —  I\T  /TI.I — .. — \  1276:  Shalmaneser  I  unifies  Assyria 

1200:  Conquest  of  Canaan  by  the  Jews 
1115-1102:  Tiglath-Pilcscr  I  extends  Assyria 
1025-1010:   Saul  King  of  the  Jews 
1010-974:  David  King  of  the  Jews 
1000-600:  Golden  Age  of  Phoenicia  & 

974-937:  Solomon  King  of  the  Jews 

937:  Schism    of   the   Jews:    Judah    & 

884-859:  Ashurnasirpal  II  King  of  Assyria 


XII  Dynasty 
Amenemhct  I 
Senusret   ("Sesostris")   I 
Senusret  III 

Amencmhet  III 

The  Hyksos  Domination 


XVIII  Dynasty 
Thutmosc  I 

Thutmose  II 
Queen  Hatshepsut 

Thutmose  III 
Amenhotep  III 

Amenhotcp  IV  (Ikhnaton) 

XIX  Dynasty 
Seti  I 

Ramescs  II 
Seti  II 

XX  Dynasty:  the  Ramessid  Kings 
Ramescs  III 

XXI  Dynasty:  the  Libyan  Kings 

*  All  dates  are  B.C.,  and  are  approximate  before  663  B.C.   In  the  case  of  rulers  the  dates 
are  of  their  reignb,  not  of  their  lives. 




947-720:  XXII  Dynasty:  the  Bubastite 


947-925:  Sheshonk  I 
925-889:  Osorkon  I 
880-850:  Osorkon  II 
850-825:  Sheshonk  II 
821-769:  Sheshonk  HI 
763-725:  Sheshonk  IV 
850-745:  XXIII  Dynasty:  The  Theban 

725-663:  XXIV  Dynasty:  The  Memphitc 

745-663:  XXV  Dynasty:  The  Ethiopian 

689-663:  Taharka 

685:  Commercial  Revival  of  Egypt 
674-650:  Assyrian  Occupation  of  Egypt 
663-525:  XXVI  Dynasty:  the  Sai'te  Kings 
663-609:  Psamtik  ("Psammctichos")  I 
663-525:  Saite  Revival  of  Egyptian  Art 

615:  Jews  begin  to  colonize  Egypt 
609-593:  Niku  ("Necho")  II 

605:  Niku    begins   the    Hellenization 
of  Egypt 

593-588:  Psamtik  II 

B.c.         WESTERN  ASIA 

859-824:  Shalmaneser  III  King  of  Assyria 
811-808:  Sammuramat  ("Semiramis")  in 

785-700:  Golden  Age  of  Armenia 


745-727:  Tiglath-Pileser  HI 
732-722:  Assyria  takes  Damascus  & 

722-705:  Sargon  II  King  of  Assyria 

709:  Dcioces  King  of  the  Medes 
705-681:  Sennacherib  King  of  Assyria 
702:  The  First  Isaiah 
689:  Sennacherib  sacks  Babylon 
681-669:  Esarhaddon  King  of  Assyria 
669-626:  Ashurbanipal   ("Sardanapalus") 

King  of  Assyria 
660-583:  Zarathustra  ("Zoroaster")? 

652:  Gygcs  King  of  Lydia 
640-584:  Cyaxares  King  of  the  Medes 
639:  Fall  of  Susa;  end  of  Elam 
639:  Josiah  King  of  the  Jews 
625:  Nabopolassar  restores  independ- 
ence of  Babylon 

621:  Beginnings  of  the  Pentateuch 
612:  Fall  of  Nineveh;  end  of  Assyria 
610-561:  Alyattes  King  of  Lydia 
605-562:  Nebuchadrezzar  II  King  of 

600:  Jeremiah  at  Jerusalem;  coinage 

in  Lydia 

597-586:  Nebuchadrezzar  takes  Jerusalem 
586-538:  Jewish  Captivity  in  Babylon 





569-526:  Ahmose  ("Amasis")  II 

568-567:  Nebuchadrezzar  II  invades  Egypt 

560:  Growing  Influence  of  Greece  in 

526-525:  Psamtik  III 

525:  Persian  Conquest  of  Egypt 

485:  Revolt  of  Egypt  against  Persia 
484:  Reconqucst  of  Egypt  by  Xerxes 
482:  Egypt  joins  with  Persia  in  war 

against  Greece 
455:  Failure  of  Athenian  Expedition 

to  Egypt 

332:  Greek  Conquest  of  Egypt; 
foundation  of  Alexandria 
283-30:  The  Ptolemaic  Kings 

30:  Egypt  absorbed  into  the  Roman 

B.c.         WESTERN  ASIA 

580:  Ezekiel  in  Babylon 
570-546:  Croesus  King  of  Lydia 
555-529:  Cyrus  I  King  of  the  Medes  &  the 


546:  Cyrus  takes  Sardis 
540:  The  Second  Isaiah 
539:  Cyrus  takes  Babylon  &  creates 

the  Persian  Empire 
529-522:  Cambyses  King  of  Persia 
521-485:  Darius  I  King  of  Persia 

520:  Building  of  2nd  Temple  at  Jeru- 

490:  Battle  of  Marathon 
485-464:  Xerxes  I  King  of  Persia 

480:  Battle  of  Salamis 
464-423:  Artaxcrxcs  I  King  of  Persia 
450:  The  Book  of  Job  (?) 
444:  Ezra  at  Jerusalem 
423-404:  Darius  II  King  of  Persia 
404-359:  Artaxerxes  II  King  of  Persia 
401:  Cyrus  the  Younger  defeated  at 


359-338:  Ochus  King  of  Persia 
338-330:  Darius  III  King  of  Persia 

334:  Battle  of  the  Granicus;  Alex- 
ander enters  Jerusalem 
333:  Battle  of  Issus 
331:  Alexander  takes  Babylon 
330:  Battle  of  Arbela;  the  Near  East 
becomes   part   of  Alexander's 



Orient-ation— Contributions  of  the  Near  East  to  Western 

WRITTEN  history  is  at  least  six  thousand  years  old.  During  half  of 
this  period  the  center  of  human  affairs,  so  far  as  they  are  now  known 
to  us,  was  in  the  Near  East.  By  this  vague  term  we  shall  mean  here  all 
southwestern  Asia  south  of  Russia  and  the  Black  Sea,  and  west  of  India 
and  Afghanistan;  still  more  loosely,  we  shall  include  within  it  Egypt,  too, 
as  anciently  bound  up  with  the  Near  East  in  one  vast  web  and  communicat- 
ing complex  of  Oriental  civilization.  In  this  rough  theatre  of  teeming 
peoples  and  conflicting  cultures  were  developed  the  agriculture  and  com- 
merce, the  horse  and  wagon,  the  coinage  and  letters  of  credit,  the  crafts 
and  industries,  the  law  and  government,  the  mathematics  and  medicine, 
the  enemas  and  drainage  systems,  the  geometry  and  astronomy,  the  calen- 
dar and  clock  and  zodiac,  the  alphabet  and  writing,  the  paper  and  ink,  the 
books  and  libraries  and  schools,  the  literature  and  music,  the  sculpture  and 
architecture,  the  glazed  pottery  and  fine  furniture,  the  monotheism  and 
monogamy,  the  cosmetics  and  jewelry,  the  checkers  and  dice,  the  ten-pins 
and  income-tax,  the  wet-nurses  and  beer,  from  which  our  own  European 
and  American  culture  derive  by  a  continuous  succession  through  the  medi- 
ation of  Crete  and  Greece  and  Rome.  The  "Aryans"  did  not  establish 
civilization—they  took  it  from  Babylonia  and  Egypt.  Greece  did  not  begin 
civilization— it  inherited  far  more  civilization  than  it  began;  it  was  the 
spoiled  heir  of  three  millenniums  of  arts  and  sciences  brought  to  its  cities 
from  the  Near  East  by  the  fortunes  of  trade  and  war.  In  studying  and 
honoring  the  Near  East  we  shall  be  acknowledging  a  debt  long  due  to 
the  real  founders  of  European  and  American  civilization. 


CHAP.  VIl)  SUMERIA  117 

I.   ELAM 

The  culture  of  Susa— The  potter's  wheel— The  wagon-wheel 

If  the  reader  will  look  at  a  map  of  Persia,  and  will  run  his  finger  north 
along  the  Tigris  from  the  Persian  Gulf  to  Amara,  and  then  east  across  the 
Iraq  border  to  the  modern  town  of  Shushan,  he  will  have  located  the  site 
of  the  ancient  city  of  Susa,  center  of  a  region  known  to  the  Jews  as  Elam— 
the  high  land.  In  this  narrow  territory,  protected  on  the  west  by  marshes, 
and  on  the  east  by  the  mountains  that  shoulder  the  great  Iranian  Plateau, 
a  people  of  unknown  race  and  origin  developed  one  of  the  first  historic 
civilizations.  Here,  a  generation  ago,  French  archeologists  found  human 
remains  dating  back  20,000  years,  and  evidences  of  an  advanced  culture 
as  old  as  4500  B.C.*1 

Apparently  the  Elamites  had  recently  emerged  from  a  nomad  life  of 
hunting  and  fishing;  but  already  they  had  copper  weapons  and  tools,  cul- 
tivated grains  and  domesticated  animals,  hieroglyphic  writing  and  business 
documents,  mirrors  and  jewelry,  and  a  trade  that  reached  from  Egypt  to 
India.8  In  the  midst  of  chipped  flints  that  bring  us  back  to  the  Neolithic 
Age  we  find  finished  vases  elegantly  rounded  and  delicately  painted  with 
geometric  designs,  or  with  picturesque  representations  of  animals  and 
plants;  some  of  this  pottery  is  ranked  among  the  finest  ever  made  by 
man.4  Here  is  the  oldest  appearance  not  only  of  the  potter's  wheel  but  of 
the  wagon  wheel;  this  modest  but  vital  vehicle  of  civilization  is  found  only 
later  in  Babylonia,  and  still  later  in  Egypt.6  From  these  already  complex 
beginnings  the  Elamites  rose  to  troubled  power,  conquering  Sumeria 
and  Babylon,  and  being  conquered  by  them,  turn  by  turn.  The  city  of 
Susa  survived  six  thousand  years  of  history,  lived  through  the  imperial 
zeniths  of  Sumeria,  Babylonia,  Egypt,  Assyria,  Persia,  Greece  and  Rome, 
and  flourished,  under  the  name  of  Shushan,  as  late  as  the  fourteenth 
century  of  our  era.  At  various  times  it  grew  to  great  wealth;  when 
Ashurbanipal  captured  and  sacked  it  (646  B.C.)  his  historians  recounted 
without  understatement  the  varied  booty  of  gold  and  silver,  precious 
stones  and  royal  ornaments,  costly  garments  and  regal  furniture,  cosmetics 
and  chariots,  which  the  conqueror  brought  in  his  train  to  Nineveh.  His- 
tory so  soon  began  its  tragic  alternance  of  art  and  war. 

*  Professor  Breasted  believes  that  the  antiquity  of  this  culture,  and  that  of  Anau,  has 
been  exaggerated  by  DC  Morgan,  Pumpelly  and  other  students.2 



1.   The  Historical  Background 

The    exhuming    of   Sumeria— Geography— Race— Appearance— 

The  Sumerian  Flood— The  kings— An  ancient  reformer— 

-Sargon  of  Akkad-The  Golden  Age  of  Ur 

If  we  return  to  our  map  and  follow  the  combined  Tigris  and  Euphrates 
from  the  Persian  Gulf  to  where  these  historic  streams  diverge  (at  mod- 
ern Kurna),  and  then  follow  the  Euphrates  westward,  we  shall  find,  north 
and  south  of  it,  the  buried  cities  of  ancient  Sumeria:  Eridu  (now  Abu 
Shahrein),  Ur  (now  Mukayyar),  Uruk  (Biblical  Erech,  now  Warka), 
Larsa  (Biblical  Ellasar,  now  Senkereh),  Lagash  (now  Shippurla),  Nippur 
(Niffer)  and  Nisin.  Follow  the  Euphrates  northwest  to  Babylon,  once  the 
most  famous  city  of  Mesopotamia  (the  land  "between  the  rivers");  ob- 
serve, directly  east  of  it,  Kish,  site  of  the  oldest  culture  known  in  this 
region;  then  pass  some  sixty  miles  farther  up  the  Euphrates  to  Agade,  cap- 
ital, in  ancient  days,  of  the  Kingdom  of  Akkad.  The  early  history  of 
Mesopotamia  is  in  one  aspect  the  struggle  of  the  non-Semitic  peoples  of 
Sumeria  to  preserve  their  independence  against  the  expansion  and  inroads 
of  the  Semites  from  Kish  and  Agade  and  other  centers  in  the  north.  In 
the  midst  of  their  struggles  these  varied  stocks  unconsciously,  perhaps 
unwillingly,  cooperated  to  produce  the  first  extensive  civilization  known 
to  history,  and  one  of  the  most  creative  and  unique.* 

Despite  much  research  we  cannot  tell  of  what  race  the  Sumerians  were, 
nor  by  what  route  they  entered  Sumeria.  Perhaps  they  came  from  central 

*The  unearthing  of  this  forgotten  culture  is  one  of  the  romances  of  archeology.  To 
those  whom,  with  a  poor  sense  of  the  amplitude  of  time,  we  call  "the  ancients"— that  is, 
to  the  Romans,  the  Greeks  and  the  Jews— Sumeria  was  unknown.  Herodotus  apparently 
never  heard  of  it;  if  he  did,  he  ignored  it,  as  something  more  ancient  to  him  than  he  to 
us.  Bcrosus,  a  Babylonian  historian  writing  about  250  B.C.,  knew  of  Sumeria  only  through 
the  veil  of  a  legend.  He  described  a  race  of  monsters,  led  by  one  Oannes,  coming  out  of 
the  Persian  Gulf,  and  introducing  the  arts  of  agriculture,  metal-working,  and  writing;  "all 
the  things  that  make  for  the  amelioration  of  life,"  he  declares,  "were  bequeathed  to  men 
by  Oannes,  and  since  that  time  no  further  inventions  have  been  made."8  Not  till  two 
thousand  years  after  Bcrosus  was  Sumeria  rediscovered.  In  1850  Hincks  recognized  that 
cuneiform  writing— made  by  pressing  a  wedge-pointed  stylus  upon  soft  clay,  and  used  in 
the  Semitic  languages  of  the  Near  East-had  been  borrowed  from  an  earlier  people  with  a 
largely  non-Semitic  speech;  and  Oppert  gave  to  this  hypothetical  people  the  name 


Asia,  or  the  Caucasus,  or  Armenia,  and  moved  through  northern  Mesopo- 
tamia down  the  Euphrates  and  the  Tigris— along  which,  as  at  Ashur,  evidences 
of  their  earliest  culture  have  been  found;  perhaps,  as  the  legend  says,  they 
sailed  in  from  the  Persian  Gulf,  from  Egypt  or  elsewhere,  and  slowly  made 
their  way  up  the  great  rivers;  perhaps  they  came  from  Susa,  among  whose 
relics  is  an  asphalt  head  bearing  all  the  characteristics  of  the  Sumerian  type; 
perhaps,  even,  they  were  of  remote  Mongolian  origin,  for  there  is  much  in 
their  language  that  resembles  the  Mongol  speech."  We  do  not  know. 

The  remains  show  them  as  a  short  and  stocky  people,  with  high,  straight, 
non-Semitic  nose,  slightly  receding  forehead  and  downward-sloping  eyes. 
Many  wore  beards,  some  were  clean-shaven,  most  of  them  shaved  the  upper 
lip.  They  clothed  themselves  in  fleece  and  finely  woven  wool;  the  women 
draped  the  garment  from  the  left  shoulder,  the  men  bound  it  at  the  waist 
and  left  the  upper  half  of  the  body  bare.  Later  the  male  dress  crept  up 
towards  the  neck  with  the  advance  of  civilization,  but  servants,  male  and 
female,  while  indoors,  continued  to  go  naked  from  head  to  waist.  The  head 
was  usually  covered  with  a  cap,  and  the  feet  were  shod  with  sandals;  but 
well-to-do  women  had  shoes  of  soft  leather,  heel-less,  and  laced  like  our 
own.  Bracelets,  necklaces,  anklets,  finger-rings  and  ear-rings  made  the  women 
of  Sumeria,  as  recently  in  America,  show-windows  of  their  husbands'  pros- 

When  their  civilization  was  already  old— about  2300  B.C.— the  poets  and 
scholars  of  Sumeria  tried  to  reconstruct  its  ancient  history.  The  poets  wrote 
legends  of  a  creation,  a  primitive  Paradise  and  a  terrible  flood  that  engulfed 
and  destroyed  it  because  of  the  sin  of  an  ancient  king.11  This  flood  passed 
down  into  Babylonian  and  Hebrew  tradition,  and  became  part  of  the  Chris- 
tian creed.  In  1929  Professor  Woolley,  digging  into  the  ruins  of  Ur,  dis- 
covered, at  considerable  depth,  an  eight-foot  layer  of  silt  and  clay;  this,  if 
we  are  to  believe  him,  was  deposited  during  a  catastrophic  overflow  of  the 

"Sumerian."7  About  the  same  time  Rawlinson  and  his  aides  found,  among  Babylonian  ruins, 
tablets  containing  vocabularies  of  this  ancient  tongue,  with  interlinear  translations,  in 
modern  college  style,  from  the  older  language  into  Babylonian.8  In  1854  two  Englishmen 
uncovered  the  sites  of  Ur,  Eridu  and  Uruk;  at  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century  French 
explorers  revealed  the  remains  of  Lagash,  including  tablets  recording  the  history  of  the 
Sumerian  kings;  and  in  our  own  time  Professor  Woolley  of  the  University  of  Pennsyl- 
vania, and  many  others,  have  exhumed  the  primeval  city  of  Ur,  where  the  Sumerians 
appear  to  have  reached  civilization  by  4500  B.C.  So  the  students  of  many  nations  have 
worked  together  on  this  chapter  of  that  endless  mystery  story  in  which  the  detectives  are 
archeologists  and  the  prey  is  historic  truth.  Nevertheless,  there  has  been  as  yet  only  a 
beginning  of  research  in  Sumeria;  there  is  no  telling  what  vistas  of  civilization  and  history 
will  be  opened  up  when  the  ground  has  been  worked,  and  the  mateml  studied,  as  men 
have  worked  and  studied  in  Egypt  during  the  last  one  hundred  years. 


Euphrates,  which  lingered  in  later  memory  as  the  Flood.  Beneath  that  layer 
were  the  remains  of  a  prediluvian  culture  that  would  later  be  pictured  by 
the  poets  as  a  Golden  Age. 

Meanwhile  the  priest-historians  sought  to  create  a  past  spacious  enough  for 
the  development  of  all  the  marvels  of  Sumerian  civilization.  They  formu- 
lated lists  of  their  ancient  kings,  extending  the  dynasties  before  the  Flood  to 
432,000  years-,"  and  told  such  impressive  stories  of  two  of  these  rulers, 
Tammuz  and  Gilgamesh,  that  the  latter  became  the  hero  of  the  greatest  poem 
in  Babylonian  literature,  and  Tammuz  passed  down  into  the  pantheon  of 
Babylon  and  became  the  Adonis  of  the  Greeks.  Perhaps  the  priests  ex- 
aggerated a  little  the  antiquity  of  their  civilization.  We  may  vaguely  judge 
the  age  of  Sumerian  culture  by  observing  that  the  ruins  of  Nippur  are 
found  to  a  depth  of  sixty-six  feet,  of  which  almost  as  many  feet  extend 
below  the  remains  of  Sargon  of  Akkad  as  rise  above  it  to  the  topmost 
stratum  (ca.  i  A.D.);"  on  this  basis  Nippur  would  go  back  to  5262  B.C.  Ten- 
acious dynasties  of  city-kings  seem  to  have  flourished  at  Kish  ca.  4500  B.C., 
and  at  Ur  ca.  3500  B.C.  In  the  competition  of  these  two  primeval  centers 
we  have  the  first  form  of  that  opposition  between  Semite  and  non-Semite 
which  was  to  be  one  bloody  theme  of  Near-Eastern  history  from  the 
Semitic  ascendancy  of  Kish  and  the  conquests  of  the  Semitic  kings  Sargon  I 
and  Hammurabi,  through  the  capture  of  Babylon  by  the  "Aryan"  generals 
Cyrus  and  Alexander  in  the  sixth  and  fourth  centuries  before  Christ,  and  the 
conflicts  of  Crusaders  and  Saracens  for  the  Holy  Sepulchre  and  the  emolu- 
ments of  trade,  down  to  the  efforts  of  the  British  Government  to  dominate 
and  pacify  the  divided  Semites  of  the  Near  East  today. 

From  3000  B.C.  onward  the  clay-tablet  records  kept  by  the  priests,  and 
found  in  the  ruins  of  Ur,  present  a  reasonably  accurate  account  of  the  ac- 
cessions and  coronations,  uninterrupted  victories  and  sublime  deaths  of  the 
petty  kings  who  ruled  the  city-states  of  Ur,  Lagash,  Uruk,  and  the  rest;  the 
writing  of  history  and  the  partiality  of  historians  are  very  ancient  things. 
One  king,  Urukagina  of  Lagash,  was  a  royal  reformer,  an  enlightened 
despot  who  issued  decrees  aimed  at  the  exploitation  of  the  poor  by  the 
rich,  and  of  everybody  by  the  priests.  The  high  priest,  says  one  edict,  must 
no  longer  "come  into  the  garden  of  a  poor  mother  and  take  wood  there- 
from, nor  gather  tax  in  fruit  therefrom";  burial-fees  were  to  be  cut  to 
one-fifth  of  what  they  had  been;  and  the  clergy  and  high  officials  were 
forbidden  to  share  among  themselves  the  revenues  and  cattle  offered  to 
the  gods.  It  was  the  King's  boast  that  he  "gave  liberty  to  his  people";14 

CHAP.  VIl)  SUMERIA  121 

and  surely  the  tablets  that  preserve  his  decrees  reveal  to  us  the  oldest, 
briefest  and  justest  code  of  laws  in  history. 

This  lucid  interval  was  ended  normally  by  one  Lugal-zaggisi,  who 
invaded  Lagash,  overthrew  Urukagina,  and  sacked  the  city  at  the  height 
of  its  prosperity.  The  temples  were  destroyed,  the  citizens  were  mas- 
sacred in  the  streets,  and  the  statues  of  the  gods  were  led  away  in  ignomin- 
ious bondage.  One  of  the  earliest  poems  in  existence  is  a  clay  tablet, 
apparently  4800  years  old,  on  which  the  Sumerian  poet  Dingiraddamu 
mourns  for  the  raped  goddess  of  Lagash: 

For  the  city,  alas,  the  treasures,  my  soul  doth  sigh, 

For  my  city  Girsu  (Lagash),  alas,  the  treasures,  my  soul  doth  sigh. 

In  holy  Girsu  the  children  are  in  distress. 

Into  the  interior  of  the  splendid  shrine  he  (the  invader)  pressed; 

The  august  Queen  from  her  temple  he  brought  forth. 

O  Lady  of  my  city,  desolated,  when  wilt  thou  return?" 

We  pass  by  the  bloody  Lugal-zaggisi,  and  other  Sumerian  kings  of 
mighty  name:  Lugal-shagengur,  Lugal-kigub-nidudu,  Ninigi-dubti,  Lugal- 
andanukhunga.  .  .  .  Meanwhile  another  people,  of  Semitic  race,  had  built 
the  kingdom  of  Akkad  under  the  leadership  of  Sargon  I,  and  had  estab- 
lished its  capital  at  Agade  some  two  hundred  miles  northwest  of  the 
Sumerian  city-states.  A  monolith  found  at  Susa  portrays  Sargon  armed 
with  the  dignity  of  a  majestic  beard,  and  dressed  in  all  the  pride  of  long 
authority.  His  origin  was  not  royal:  history  could  find  no  father  for  him, 
and  no  other  mother  than  a  temple  prostitute.18  Sumerian  legend  composed 
for  him  an  autobiography  quite  Mosaic  in  its  beginning:  "My  humble 
mother  conceived  me;  in  secret  she  brought  me  forth.  She  placed  me  in 
a  basket-boat  of  rushes;  with  pitch  she  closed  my  door."17  Rescued  by  a 
workman,  he  became  a  cup-bearer  to  the  king,  grew  in  favor  and  influence, 
rebelled,  displaced  his  master,  and  mounted  the  throne  of  Agade.  He 
called  himself  "King  of  Universal  Dominion,"  and  ruled  a  small  portion 
of  Mesopotamia.  Historians  call  him  "the  Great,"  for  he  invaded  many 
cities,  captured  much  booty,  and  killed  many  men.  Among  his  victims 
was  that  same  Lugal-zaggisi  who  had  despoiled  Lagash  and  violated  its 
goddess;  him  Sargon  defeated  and  carried  off  to  Nippur  in  chains.  East 
and  west,  north  and  south  the  mighty  warrior  marched,  conquering  Elam, 
washing  his  weapons  in  symbolic  triumph  in  the  Persian  Gulf,  crossing 


western  Asia,  reaching  the  Mediterranean,18  and  establishing  the  first  great 
empire  in  history.  For  fifty-five  years  he  held  sway,  while  legends  gath- 
ered about  him  and  prepared  to  make  him  a  god.  His  reign  closed  with 
all  his  empire  in  revolt. 

Three  sons  succeeded  him  in  turn.  The  third,  Naram-sin,  was  a  mighty 
builder,  of  whose  works  nothing  remains  but  a  lovely  stele,  or  memorial 
slab,  recording  his  victory  over  an  obscure  king.  This  powerful  relief, 
found  by  De  Morgan  at  Susa  in  1897,  and  now  a  treasure  of  the  Louvre, 
shows  a  muscular  Naram-sin  armed  with  bow  and  dart,  stepping  with 
royal  dignity  upon  the  bodies  of  his  fallen  foes,  and  apparently  prepared 
to  answer  with  quick  death  the  appeal  of  the  vanquished  for  mercy;  while 
between  them  another  victim,  pierced  through  the  neck  with  an  arrow, 
falls  dying.  Behind  them  tower  the  Zagros  Mountains;  and  on  one  hill 
is  the  record,  in  elegant  cuneiform,  of  Naram-sin's  victory.  Here  the  art 
of  carving  is  already  adult  and  confident,  already  guided  and  strengthened 
with  a  long  tradition. 

To  be  burned  to  the  ground  is  not  always  a  lasting  misfortune  for  a 
city;  it  is  usually  an  advantage  from  the  standpoint  of  architecture  and 
sanitation.  By  the  twenty-sixth  century  B.C.  we  find  Lagash  flourishing 
again,  now  under  another  enlightened  monarch,  Gudea,  whose  stocky 
statues  are  the  most  prominent  remains  of  Sumerian  sculpture.  The  diorite 
figure  in  the  Louvre  shows  him  in  a  pious  posture,  with  his  head  crossed 
by  a  heavy  band  resembling  a  model  of  the  Colosseum,  hands  folded  in 
his  lap,  bare  shoulders  and  feet,  and  short,  chubby  legs  covered  by  a  bell- 
like  skirt  embroidered  with  a  volume  of  hieroglyphics.  The  strong  but 
regular  features  reveal  a  man  thoughtful  and  just,  firm  and  yet  refined. 
Gudea  was  honored  by  his  people  not  as  a  warrior  but  as  a  Sumerian 
Aurelius,  devoted  to  religion,  literature  and  good  works;  he  built  temples, 
promoted  the  study  of  classical  antiquities  in  the  spirit  of  the  expeditions 
that  unearthed  him,  and  tempered  the  strength  of  the  strong  in  mercy 
to  the  weak.  One  of  his  inscriptions  reveals  the  policy  for  which  his  people 
worshiped  him,  after  his  death,  as  a  god:  "During  seven  years  the  maid- 
servant was  the  equal  of  her  mistress,  the  slave  walked  beside  his  master, 
and  in  my  town  the  weak  rested  by  the  side  of  the  strong."10 

Meanwhile  "Ur  of  the  Chaldees"  was  having  one  of  the  most  pros- 
perous epochs  in  its  long  career  from  3,500  B.C.  (the  apparent  age  of  its 
oldest  graves)  to  700  B.C.  Its  greatest  king,  Ur-engur,  brought  all 


western  Asia  under  his  pacific  sway,  and  proclaimed  for  all  Sumeria  the 
first  extensive  code  of  laws  in  history.  "By  the  laws  of  righteousness  of 
Shamash  forever  I  established  justice."80  As  Ur  grew  rich  by  the  trade  that 
flowed  through  it  on  the  Euphrates,  Ur-engur,  like  Pericles,  beautified 
his  city  with  temples,  and  built  lavishly  in  the  subject  cities  of  Larsa,  Uruk 
and  Nippur.  His  son  Dungi  continued  his  work  through  a  reign  of  fifty- 
eight  years,  and  ruled  so  wisely  that  the  people  deified  him  as  the  god 
who  had  brought  back  their  ancient  Paradise. 

But  soon  that  glory  faded.  The  warlike  Elamites  from  the  East  and 
the  rising  Amorites  from  the  West  swept  down  upon  the  leisure,  pros- 
perity and  peace  of  Ur,  captured  its  king,  and  sacked  the  city  with  primi- 
tive thoroughness.  The  poets  of  Ur  sang  sad  chants  about  the  rape  of 
the  statue  of  Ishtar,  their  beloved  mother-goddess,  torn  from  her  shrine 
by  profane  invaders.  The  form  of  these  poems  is  unexpectedly  first- 
personal,  and  the  style  does  not  please  the  sophisticated  ear;  but  across 
the  four  thousand  years  that  separate  us  from  the  Sumerian  singer  we 
feel  the  desolation  of  his  city  and  his  people. 

Me  the  foe  hath  ravished,  yea,  with  hands  unwashed; 

Me  his  hands  have  ravished,  made  me  die  of  terror. 

Oh,  I  am  wretched!    Naught  of  reverence  hath  he! 

Stripped  me  of  my  robes,  and  clothed  therein  his  consort, 

Tore  my  jewels  from  me,  therewith  decked  his  daughter. 

(Now)  I  tread  his  courts— my  very  person  sought  he 

In  the  shrines.    Alas,  the  day  when  to  go  forth  I  trembled. 

He  pursued  me  in  my  temple;  he  made  me  quake  with  fear, 

There  within  my  walls;  and  like  a  dove  that  fluttering  percheth 

On  a  rafter,  like  a  flitting  owlet  in  a  cavern  hidden, 

Birdlike  from  my  shrine  he  chased  me, 

From  my  city  like  a  bird  he  chased  me,  me  sighing, 

"Far  behind,  behind  me  is  my  temple."11 

So  for  two  hundred  years,  which  to  our  self-centered  eyes  seem  but 
an  empty  moment,  Elam  and  Amor  ruled  Sumeria.  Then  from  the  north 
came  the  great  Hammurabi,  King  of  Babylon;  retook  from  the  Elamites 
Uruk  and  Isin;  bided  his  time  for  twenty-three  years;  invaded  Elam  and 
captured  its  king;  established  his  sway  over  Amor  and  distant  Assyria, 
built  an  empire  of  unprecedented  power,  and  disciplined  it  with  a  universal 


law.  For  many  centuries  now,  until  the  rise  of  Persia,  the  Semites  would 
rule  the  Land  between  the  Rivers.  Of  the  Sumerians  nothing  more  is 
heard;  their  little  chapter  in  the  book  of  history  was  complete. 

2.  Economic  Life 
The  soil  —  Industry  —  Trade  —  Classes  —  Science 

But  Sumerian  civilization  remained.  Sumer  and  Akkad  still  produced 
handicraftsmen,  poets,  artists,  sages  and  saints;  the  culture  of  the  southern 
cities  passed  north  along  the  Euphrates  and  the  Tigris  to  Babylonia  and 
Assyria  as  the  initial  heritage  of  Mesopotamian  civilization. 

At  the  basis  of  this  culture  was  a  soil  made  fertile  by  the  annual  over- 
flow of  rivers  swollen  with  the  winter  rains.  The  overflow  was  perilous 
as  well  as  useful;  the  Sumerians  learned  to  channel  it  safely  through  irri- 
gating canals  that  ribbed  and  crossed  their  land;  and  they  commemorated 
those  early  dangers  by  legends  that  told  of  a  flood,  and  how  at  last  the 
land  had  been  separated  from  the  waters,  and  mankind  had  been  saved.38 
This  irrigation  system,  dating  from  4000  B.C.,  was  one  of  the  great  achieve- 
ments of  Sumerian  civilization,  and  certainly  its  foundation.  Out  of  these 
carefully  watered  fields  came  abounding  crops  of  corn,  barley,  spelt, 
dates,  and  many  vegetables.  The  plough  appeared  early,  drawn  by  oxen 
as  even  with  us  until  yesterday,  and  already  furnished  with  a  tubular  seed- 
drill.  The  gathered  harvest  was  threshed  by  drawing  over  it  great  sledges 
of  wood  armed  with  flint  teeth  that  cut  the  straw  for  the  cattle  and 
released  the  grain  for  men.84 

It  was  in  many  ways  a  primitive  culture.  The  Sumerians  made  some 
use  of  copper  and  tin,  and  occasionally  mixed  them  to  produce  bronze; 
now  and  then  they  went  so  far  as  to  make  large  implements  of  iron.* 
But  metal  was  still  a  luxury  and  a  rarity.  Most  Sumerian  tools  were  of 
flint;  some,  like  the  sickles  for  cutting  the  barley,  were  of  clay;  and  cer- 
tain finer  articles,  such  as  needles  and  awls,  used  ivory  and  bone.98  Weav- 
ing was  done  on  a  large  scale  under  the  supervision  of  overseers  appointed 
by  the  king,*7  after  the  latest  fashion  of  governmentally  controlled  industry. 
Houses  were  made  of  reeds,  usually  plastered  with  an  adobe  mixture  of 
clay  and  straw  moistened  with  water  and  hardened  by  the  sun;  such  dwell- 
ings are  still  easy  to  find  in  what  was  once  Sumeria.  The  hut  had  wooden 
doors,  revolving  upon  socket  hinges  of  stone.  The  floors  were  ordinarily 

CHAP.  VIl)  SUMERIA  125 

the  beaten  earth;  the  roofs  were  arched  by  bending  the  reeds  together 
at  the  top,  or  were  made  flat  with  mud-covered  reeds  stretched  over 
crossbeams  of  wood.  Cows,  sheep,  goats  and  pigs  roamed  about  the 
dwelling  in  primeval  comradeship  with  man.  Water  for  drinking  was 
drawn  from  wells.28 

Goods  were  carried  chiefly  by  water.  Since  stone  was  rare  in  Sumeria 
it  was  brought  up  the  Gulf  or  down  the  rivers,  and  then  through  numerous 
canals  to  the  quays  of  the  cities.  But  land  transportation  was  developing; 
at  Kish  the  Oxford  Field  Expedition  unearthed  some  of  the  oldest  wheeled 
vehicles  known."  Here  and  there  in  the  ruins  are  business  seals  bearing 
indications  of  traffic  with  Egypt  and  India.80  There  was  no  coinage  yet, 
and  trade  was  normally  by  barter;  but  gold  and  silver  were  already  in  use 
as  standards  of  value,  and  were  often  accepted  in  exchange  for  goods— 
sometimes  in  the  form  of  ingots  and  rings  of  definite  worth,  but  generally 
in  quantities  measured  by  weight  in  each  transaction.  Many  of  the  clay 
tablets  that  have  brought  down  to  us  fragments  of  Sumerian  writing  are 
business  documents,  revealing  a  busy  commercial  life.  One  tablet  speaks, 
with  fin-de-siecle  weariness,  of  "the  city,  where  the  tumult  of  man  is." 
Contracts  had  to  be  confirmed  in  writing  and  duly  witnessed.  A  system 
of  credit  existed  by  which  goods,  gold  or  silver  might  be  borrowed,  interest 
to  be  paid  in  the  same  material  as  the  loan,  and  at  rates  ranging  from  15 
to  33%  per  annum.31  Since  the  stability  of  a  society  may  be  partly  mea- 
sured by  inverse  relation  with  the  rate  of  interest,  we  may  suspect  that 
Sumerian  business,  like  ours,  lived  in  an  atmosphere  of  economic  and  po- 
litical uncertainty  and  doubt. 

Gold  and  silver  have  been  found  abundantly  in  the  tombs,  not  only 
as  jewelry,  but  as  vessels,  weapons,  ornaments,  even  as  tools.  Rich  and 
poor  were  stratified  into  many  classes  and  gradations;  slavery  was  highly 
developed,  and  property  rights  were  already  sacred.81  Between  the  rich 
and  the  poor  a  middle  class  took  form,  composed  of  small-business  men, 
scholars,  physicians  and  priests.  Medicine  flourished,  and  had  a  specific 
for  every  disease;  but  it  was  still  bound  up  with  theology,  and  admitted 
that  sickness,  being  due  to  possession  by  evil  spirits,  could  never  be  cured 
without  the  exorcising  of  these  demons.  A  calendar  of  uncertain  age  and 
origin  divided  the  year  into  lunar  months,  adding  a  month  every  three  or 
four  years  to  reconcile  the  calendar  with  the  seasons  and  the  sun.  Each 
city  gave  its  own  names  to  the  months.88 


3.   Government 
The  kings— Ways  of  war— The  feudal  barons— Law 

Indeed  each  city,  as  long  as  it  could,  maintained  a  jealous  independence, 
and  indulged  itself  in  a  private  king.  It  called  him  patesi,  or  priest-king, 
indicating  by  the  very  word  that  government  was  bound  up  with  religion. 
By  2800  B.C.  the  growth  of  trade  made  such  municipal  separatism  im- 
possible, and  generated  "empires"  in  which  some  dominating  personality 
subjected  the  cities  and  their  patesis  to  his  power,  and  wove  them  into 
an  economic  and  political  unity.  The  despot  lived  in  a  Renaissance  atmos- 
phere of  violence  and  fear;  at  any  moment  he  might  be  despatched  by 
the  same  methods  that  had  secured  him  the  throne.  He  dwelt  in  an  in- 
accessible palace,  whose  two  entrances  were  so  narrow  as  to  admit  only 
one  person  at  a  time;  to  the  right  and  left  were  recesses  from  which  secret 
guards  could  examine  every  visitor,  or  pounce  upon  him  with  daggers.84 
Even  the  king's  temple  was  private,  hidden  away  in  his  palace,  so  that  he 
might  perform  his  religious  duties  without  exposure,  or  neglect  them 

The  king  went  to  battle  in  a  chariot,  leading  a  motley  host  armed  with 
bows,  arrows  and  spears.  The  wars  were  waged  frankly  for  commercial 
routes  and  goods,  without  catchwords  as  a  sop  for  idealists.  King  Manish- 
tusu  of  Akkad  announced  frankly  that  he  was  invading  Elam  to  get  control 
of  its  silver  mines,  and  to  secure  diorite  stone  to  immortalize  himself  with 
statuary— the  only  instance  known  of  a  war  fought  for  the  sake  of  art. 
The  defeated  were  customarily  sold  into  slavery;  or,  if  this  was  unprofit- 
able, they  were  slaughtered  on  the  battlefield.  Sometimes  a  tenth  of  the 
prisoners,  struggling  vainly  in  a  net,  were  offered  as  living  victims  to  the 
thirsty  gods.  As  in  Renaissance  Italy,  the  chauvinistic  separatism  of  the 
cities  stimulated  life  and  art,  but  led  to  civic  violence  and  suicidal  strife 
that  weakened  each  petty  state,  and  at  last  destroyed  Sumeria.88 

In  the  empires  social  order  was  maintained  through  a  feudal  system. 
After  a  successful  war  the  ruler  gave  tracts  of  land  to  his  valiant  chieftains, 
and  exempted  such  estates  from  taxation;  these  men  kept  order  in  their 
territories,  and  provided  soldiers  and  supplies  for  the  exploits  of  the  king. 
The  finances  of  the  government  were  obtained  by  taxes  in  kind,  stored 
in  royal  warehouses,  and  distributed  as  pay  to  officials  and  employees  of 
the  state.*8 


To  this  system  of  royal  and  feudal  administration  was  added  a  body  of 
law,  already  rich  with  precedents  when  Ur-engur  and  Dungi  codified  the 
statutes  of  Ur;  this  was  the  fountainhead  of  Hammurabi's  famous  code. 
It  was  cruder  and  simpler  than  later  legislation,  but  less  severe:  where,  for 
example,  the  Semitic  code  killed  a  woman  for  adultery,  the  Sumerian  code 
merely  allowed  the  husband  to  take  a  second  wife,  and  reduce  the  first 
to  a  subordinate  position."  The  law  covered  commercial  as  well  as  sexual 
relations,  and  regulated  all  loans  and  contracts,  all  buying  and  selling,  all 
adoptions  and  bequests.  Courts  of  justice  sat  in  the  temples,  and  the  judges 
were  for  the  most  part  priests;  professional  judges  presided  over  a  superior 
court.  The  best  element  in  this  code  was  a  plan  for  avoiding  litigation: 
every  case  was  first  submitted  to  a  public  arbitrator  whose  duty  it  was 
to  bring  about  an  amicable  settlement  without  recourse  to  law.88  It  is  a  poor 
civilization  from  which  we  may  not  learn  something  to  improve  our  own. 

4.   Religion  and  Morality 

The  Sumerian  Pantheon  —  The  food  of  the  gods  —  Mythology  — 

Education— A   Sumerian  prayer— Temple  prostitutes— The 

rights  of  woman— Sumerian  cos-metics 

King  Ur-engur  proclaimed  his  code  of  laws  in  the  name  of  the  great 
god  Shamash,  for  government  had  so  soon  discovered  the  political  utility 
of  heaven.  Having  been  found  useful,  the  gods  became  innumerable; 
every  city  and  state,  every  human  activity,  had  some  inspiring  and  dis- 
ciplinary divinity.  Sun-worship,  doubtless  already  old  when  Sumeria  be- 
gan, expressed  itself  in  the  cult  of  Shamash,  "light  of  the  gods,"  who 
passed  the  night  in  the  depths  of  the  north,  until  Dawn  opened  its  gates 
for  him;  then  he  mounted  the  sky  like  a  flame,  driving  his  chariot  over 
the  steeps  of  the  firmament;  the  sun  was  merely  a  wheel  of  his  fiery  car.18 
Nippur  built  great  temples  to  the  god  Enlil  and  his  consort  Ninlil;  Uruk 
worshiped  especially  the  virgin  earth-goddess  Innini,  known  to  the  Semites 
of  Akkad  as  Ishtar— the  loose  and  versatile  Aphrodite-Demeter  of  the  Near 
East.  Kish  and  Lagash  worshiped  a  Mat er  Dolorosa,  the  sorrowful  mother- 
goddess  Ninkarsag,  who,  grieved  with  the  unhappiness  of  men,  interceded 
for  them  with  sterner  deities.40  Ningirsu  was  the  god  of  irrigation,  the 
"Lord  of  Floods";  Abu  or  Tammuz  was  the  god  of  vegetation.  Even  Sin 
was  a  god—of  the  moon;  he  was  represented  in  human  form  with  a  thin 


crescent  about  his  head,  presaging  the  halos  of  medieval  saints.  The  air 
was  full  of  spirits—beneficent  angels,  one  each  as  protector  to  every 
Sumerian,  and  demons  or  devils  who  sought  to  expel  the  protective  deity 
and  take  possession  of  body  and  soul. 

Most  of  the  gods  lived  in  the  temples,  where  they  were  provided  by 
the  faithful  with  revenue,  food  and  wives.  The  tablets  of  Gudea  list  the 
objects  which  the  gods  preferred:  oxen,  goats,  sheep,  doves,  chickens, 
ducks,  fish,  dates,  figs,  cucumbers,  butter,  oil  and  cakes;41  we  may  judge 
from  this  list  that  the  well-to-do  Sumerian  enjoyed  a  plentiful  cuisine. 
Originally,  it  seems,  the  gods  preferred  human  flesh;  but  as  human  morality 
improved  they  had  to  be  content  with  animals.  A  liturgical  tablet  found 
in  the  Sumerian  ruins  says,  with  strange  theological  premonitions:  "The 
lamb  is  the  substitute  for  humanity;  he  hath  given  up  a  lamb  for  his  life."41 
Enriched  by  such  beneficence,  the  priests  became  the  wealthiest  and  most 
powerful  class  in  the  Sumerian  cities.  In  most  matters  they  were  the  gov- 
ernment; it  is  difficult  to  make  out  to  what  extent  the  patesi  was  a  priest, 
and  to  what  extent  a  king.  Urukagina  rose  like  a  Luther  against  the  ex- 
actions of  the  clergy,  denounced  them  for  their  voracity,  accused  them  of 
taking  bribes  in  their  administration  of  the  law,  and  charged  that  they 
were  levying  such  taxes  upon  farmers  and  fishermen  as  to  rob  them  of 
the  fruits  of  their  toil.  He  swept  the  courts  clear  for  a  time  of  these  corrupt 
officials,  and  established  laws  regulating  the  taxes  and  fees  paid  to  the 
temples,  protecting  the  helpless  against  extortion,  and  providing  against 
the  violent  alienation  of  funds  or  property.48  Already  the  world  was  old, 
and  well  established  in  its  time-honored  ways. 

Presumably  the  priests  recovered  their  power  when  Urukagina  died, 
quite  as  they  were  to  recover  their  power  in  Egypt  after  the  passing  of 
Ikhnaton;  men  will  pay  any  price  for  mythology.  Even  in  this  early  age 
the  great  myths  of  religion  were  taking  form.  Since  food  and  tools  were 
placed  in  the  graves  with  the  dead,  we  may  presume  that  the  Sumerians 
believed  in  an  after-life.44  But  like  the  Greeks  they  pictured  the  other  world 
as  a  dark  abode  of  miserable  shadows,  to  which  all  the  dead  descended 
indiscriminately.  They  had  not  yet  conceived  heaven  and  hell,  eternal 
reward  and  punishment;  they  offered  prayer  and  sacrifice  not  for  "eternal 
life,"  but  for  tangible  advantages  here  on  the  earth.48  Later  legend  told 
how  Adapa,  a  sage  of  Eridu,  had  been  initiated  into  all  lore  by  Ea,  goddess 
of  wisdom;  one  secret  only  had  been  refused  him— the  knowledge  of 


deathless  life."  Another  legend  narrated  how  the  gods  had  created  man 
happy;  how  man,  by  his  free  will,  had  sinned,  and  been  punished  with  a 
flood,  from  which  but  one  man— Tagtug  the  weaver— had  survived.  Tag- 
tug  forfeited  longevity  and  health  by  eating  the  fruit  of  a  forbidden  tree.47 

The  priests  transmitted  education  as  well  as  mythology,  and  doubtless 
sought  to  teach,  as  well  as  to  rule,  by  their  myths.  To  most  of  the  temples 
were  attached  schools  wherein  the  clergy  instructed  boys  and  girls  in 
writing  and  arithmetic,  formed  their  habits  into  patriotism  and  piety,  and 
prepared  some  of  them  for  the  high  professsion  of  scribe.  School  tablets 
survive,  encrusted  with  tables  of  multiplication  and  division,  square  and 
cube  roots,  and  exercises  in  applied  geometry.4*  That  the  instruction  was 
not  much  more  foolish  than  that  which  is  given  to  our  children  appears 
from  a  tablet  which  is  a  Lucretian  outline  of  anthropology:  "Mankind 
when  created  did  not  know  of  bread  for  eating  or  garments  for  wearing. 
The  people  walked  with  limbs  on  the  ground,  they  ate  herbs  with  their 
mouths  like  sheep,  they  drank  ditch-water."4* 

What  nobility  of  spirit  and  utterance  this  first  of  the  historic  religions 
could  rise  to  shines  out  in  the  prayer  of  King  Gudca  to  the  goddess  Bau, 
the  patron  deity  of  Lagash: 

0  my  Queen,  the  Mother  who  established  Lagash, 
The  people  on  whom  thou  lookcst  is  rich  in  power; 
The  worshiper  on  whom  thou  lookest,  his  life  is  prolonged. 

1  have  no  mother— thou  art  my  mother; 

I  have  no  father— thou  art  my  father.  .  .  . 
My  goddess  Bau,  thou  knowest  what  is  good; 
Thou  hast  given  me  the  breath  of  life. 
Under  the  protection  of  thee,  my  Mother, 
In  thy  shadow  I  will  reverently  dwell.80 

Women  were  attached  to  every  temple,  some  as  domestics,  some  as 
concubines  for  the  gods  or  their  duly  constituted  representatives  on  earth. 
To  serve  the  temples  in  this  way  did  not  seem  any  disgrace  to  a  Sumcrian 
girl;  her  father  was  proud  to  devote  her  charms  to  the  alleviation  of  divine 
monotony,  and  celebrated  the  admission  of  his  daughter  to  these  sacred 
functions  with  ceremonial  sacrifice,  and  the  presentation  of  the  girl's 
marriage  dowry  to  the  temple.81 

Marriage  was  already  a  complex  institution  regulated  by  many  laws. 


The  bride  kept  control  of  the  dowry  given  her  by  her  father  in  marriage, 
and  though  she  held  it  jointly  with  her  husband,  she  alone  determined  its 
bequest.  She  exercised  equal  rights  with  her  husband  over  their  children; 
and  in  the  absence  of  the  husband  and  a  grown-up  son  she  administered 
the  estate  as  well  as  the  home.  She  could  engage  in  business  independently 
of  her  husband,  and  could  keep  or  dispose  of  her  own  slaves.  Sometimes, 
like  Shub-ad,  she  could  rise  to  the  status  of  queen,  and  rule  her  city  with 
luxurious  and  imperious  grace."  But  in  all  crises  the  man  was  lord  and 
master.  Under  certain  conditions  he  could  sell  his  wife,  or  hand  her  over 
as  a  slave  to  pay  his  debts.  The  double  standard  was  already  in  force,  as 
a  corollary  of  property  and  inheritance:  adultery  in  the  man  was  a  for- 
givable whim,  but  in  the  woman  it  was  punished  with  death.  She  was 
expected  to  give  many  children  to  her  husband  and  the  state;  if  barren, 
she  could  be  divorced  without  further  reason;  if  merely  averse  to  con- 
tinuous maternity  she  was  drowned.  Children  were  without  legal  rights; 
their  parents,  by  the  act  of  publicly  disowning  them,  secured  their  banish- 
ment from  the  city." 

Nevertheless,  as  in  most  civilizations,  the  women  of  the  upper  classes 
almost  balanced,  by  their  luxury  and  their  privileges,  the  toil  and  dis- 
abilities of  their  poorer  sisters.  Cosmetics  and  jewelry  are  prominent  in 
the  Sumerian  tombs.  In  Queen  Shub-ad's  grave  Professor  Woolley  picked 
up  a  little  compact  of  blue-green  malachite,  golden  pins  with  knobs  of 
lapis-Iazuli,  and  a  vanity-case  of  filigree  gold  shell.  This  vanity-case,  as 
large  as  a  little  finger,  contained  a  tiny  spoon,  presumably  for  scooping  up 
rouge  from  the  compact;  a  metal  stick,  perhaps  for  training  the  cuticle; 
and  a  pair  of  tweezers  probably  used  to  train  the  eyebrows  or  to  pluck 
out  inopportune  hairs.  The  Queen's  rings  .were  made  of  gold  wire;  one 
ring  was  inset  with  segments  of  lapis-lazuli;  her  necklace  was  of  fluted 
lapis  and  gold.  Surely  there  is  nothing  new  under  the  sun;  and  the  differ- 
ence between  the  first  woman  and  the  last  could  pass  through  the  eye  of 
a  needle. 

5.  Letters  and  Arts 

Writing— Literature—Temples  and  palaces— Statuary— Ceramics— 
Jewelry- -Summary  of  Sumerian  civilization 

The  startling  fact  in  the  Sumerian  remains  is  writing.  The  marvelous  art 
seems  already  well  advanced,  fit  to  express  complex  thought  in  com- 

CHAP.  VIl)  SUMERIA  131 

merce,  poetry  and  religion.  The  oldest  inscriptions  are  on  stone,  and 
date  apparently  as  far  back  as  3600  B.C.54  Towards  3200  B.C.  the  clay 
tablet  appears,  and  from  that  time  on  the  Sumerians  seem  to  have  delighted 
in  the  great  discovery.  It  is  our  good  fortune  that  the  people  of  Mesopo- 
tamia wrote  not  upon  fragile,  ephemeral  paper  in  fading  ink,  but  upon 
moist  clay  deftly  impressed  with  the  wedge-like  ("cuneiform")  point 
of  a  stylus.  With  this  malleable  material  the  scribe  kept  records,  executed 
contracts,  drew  up  official  documents,  recorded  property,  judgments  and 
sales,  and  created  a  culture  in  which  the  stylus  became  as  mighty  as  the 
sword.  Having  completed  the  writing,  the  scribe  baked  the  clay  tablet 
with  heat  or  in  the  sun,  and  made  it  thereby  a  manuscript  far  more  durable 
than  paper,  and  only  less  lasting  than  stone.  This  development  of  cunei- 
form script  was  the  outstanding  contribution  of  Sumeria  to  the  civilizing 
of  mankind. 

Sumerian  writing  reads  from  right  to  left;  the  Babylonians  were,  so  far 
as  we  know,  the  first  people  to  write  from  left  to  right.  The  linear  script, 
as  we  have  seen,  was  apparently  a  stylized  and  conventionalized  form  of 
the  signs  and  pictures  painted  or  impressed  upon  primitive  Sumerian  pot- 
tery.* Presumably  from  repetition  and  haste  over  centuries  of  time,  the 
original  pictures  were  gradually  contracted  into  signs  so  unlike  the  objects 
which  they  had  once  represented  that  they  became  the  symbols  of  sounds 
rather  than  of  things.  We  should  have  an  analogous  process  in  English  if 
the  picture  of  a  bee  should  in  time  be  shortened  and  simplified,  and  come  to 
mean  not  a  bee  but  the  sound  be,  and  then  serve  to  indicate  that  syllable 
in  any  combination  as  in  be-ing.  The  Sumerians  and  Babylonians  never  ad- 
vanced from  such  representation  of  syllables  to  the  representation  of  letters— 
never  dropped  the  vowel  in  the  syllabic  sign  to  make  be  mean  b;  it  seems  to 
have  remained  for  the  Egyptians  to  take  this  simple  but  revolutionary  step." 

The  transition  from  writing  to  literature  probably  required  many  hun- 
dreds of  years.  For  centuries  writing  was  a  tool  of  commerce,  a  matter 
of  contracts  and  bills,  of  shipments  and  receipts;  and  secondarily,  perhaps, 
it  was  an  instrument  of  religious  record,  an  attempt  to  preserve  magic 
formulas,  ceremonial  procedures,  sacred  legends,  prayers  and  hymns  from 
alteration  or  decay.  Nevertheless,  by  2700  B.C.,  great  libraries  had  been 
formed  in  Sumeria;  at  Tello,  for  example,  in  ruins  contemporary  with 
Gudea,  De  Sarzac  discovered  a  collection  of  over  30,000  tablets  ranged  one 

*  Cf.  above,  p.  104. 


upon  another  in  neat  and  logical  array.56  As  early  as  2000  B.C.  Sumerian 
historians  began  to  reconstruct  the  past  and  record  the  present  for  the 
edification  of  the  future;  portions  of  their  work  have  come  down  to  us 
not  in  the  original  form  but  as  quotations  in  later  Babylonian  chronicles. 
Among  the  original  fragments,  however,  is  a  tablet  found  at  Nippur,  bear- 
ing the  Sumerian  prototype  of  the  epic  of  Gilgamesh,  which  we  shall  study 
later  in  its  developed  Babylonian  expression."7  Some  of  the  shattered 
tablets  contain  dirges  of  no  mean  power,  and  of  significant  literary  form. 
Here  at  the  outset  appears  the  characteristic  Near-Eastern  trick  of  chant- 
ing repetition—many  lines  beginning  in  the  same  way,  many  clauses  reiter- 
ating or  illustrating  the  meaning  of  the  clause  before.  Through  these  sal- 
vaged relics  we  sec  the  religious  origin  of  literature  in  the  songs  and  lamen- 
tations of  the  priests.  The  first  poems  were  not  madrigals,  but  prayers. 

Behind  these  apparent  beginnings  of  culture  were  doubtless  many  cen- 
turies of  development,  in  Sumcria  and  other  lands.  Nothing  has  been 
created,  it  has  only  grown.  Just  as  in  writing  Sumeria  seeins  to  have 
created  cuneiform,  so  in  architecture  it  seems  to  have  created  at  once  the 
fundamental  shapes  of  home  and  temple,  column  and  vault  and  arch.88 
The  Sumerian  peasant  made  his  cottage  by  planting  reeds  in  a  square,  a 
rectangle  or  a  circle,  bending  the  tops  together,  and  binding  them  to  form 
an  arch,  a  vault  or  a  dome;5"  this,  we  surmise,  is  the  simple  origin,  or  earliest 
known  appearance,  of  these  architectural  forms.  Among  the  ruins  of 
Nippur  is  an  arched  drain  5000  years  old;  in  the  royal  tombs  of  Ur  there 
are  arches  that  go  back  to  3500  B.C.,  and  arched  doors  were  common 
at  Ur  2000  B.C.°°  And  these  were  true  arches:  i.e.,  their  stones  were  set 
in  full  voussoir  fashion— each  stone  a  wedge  tapering  downward  tightly 
into  place. 

The  richer  citizens  built  palaces,  perched  on  a  mound  sometimes  forty 
feet  above  the  plain,  and  made  purposely  inaccessible  except  by  one  path, 
so  that  every  Sumcrian's  home  might  be  his  castle.  Since  stone  was  scarce, 
these  palaces  were  mostly  of  brick.  The  plain  red  surface  of  the  walls  was 
relieved  by  terracotta  decoration  in  every  form— spirals,  chevrons,  triangles, 
even  lozenges  and  diapers.  The  inner  walls  were  plastered  and  painted  in 
simple  mural  style.  The  house  was  built  around  a  central  court,  which  gave 
shade  and  some  coolness  against  the  Mediterranean  sun;  for  the  same  reason, 
as  well  as  for  security,  the  rooms  opened  upon  this  court  rather  than  upon 
the  outer  world.  Windows  were  a  luxury,  or  perhaps  they  were  not  wanted. 


Water  was  drawn  from  wells;  and  an  extensive  system  of  drainage  drew 
the  waste  from  the  residential  districts  of  the  towns.  Furniture  was  not 
complex  or  abundant  but  neither  was  it  without  taste.  Some  beds  were  in- 
laid with  metal  or  ivory,  and  occasionally,  as  in  Egypt,  armchairs  flaunted 
feet  like  lions'  claws."1 

For  the  temples  stone  was  imported,  and  adorned  with  copper  entabla- 
tures and  friezes  inlaid  with  semiprecious  material.  The  temple  of  Nannar 
at  Ur  set  a  fashion  for  all  Mesopotamia  with  pale  blue  enameled  tiles;  while 
its  interior  was  paneled  with  rare  woods  like  cedar  and  cypress,  inlaid  with 
marble,  alabaster,  onyx,  agate  and  gold.  Usually  the  most  important  temple 
in  the  city  was  not  only  built  upon  an  elevation,  but  was  topped  with  a  zig- 
gurat— a  tower  of  three,  four  or  seven  stories,  surrounded  with  a  winding 
external  stairway,  and  set  back  at  every  stage.  Here  on  the  heights  the 
loftiest  of  the  city's  gods  might  dwell,  and  here  the  government  might 
find  a  last  spiritual  and  physical  citadel  against  invasion  or  revolt.*08 

The  temples  were  sometimes  decorated  with  statuary  of  animals,  heroes 
and  gods;  figures  plain,  blunt  and  powerful,  but  severely  lacking  in  sculp- 
tural finish  and  grace.  Most  of  the  extant  statues  are  of  King  Gudea,  exe- 
cuted resolutely  but  crudely  in  resistant  diorite.  In  the  ruins  of  Tell-cl- 
Ubaid,  from  the  early  Sumerian  period,  a  copper  statuette  of  a  bull  was 
found,  much  abused  by  the  centuries,  but  still  full  of  life  and  bovine  com- 
placency. A  cow's  head  in  silver  from  the  grave  of  Queen  Shub-ad  at 
Ur  is  a  masterpiece  that  suggests  a  developed  art  too  much  despoiled  by 
time  to  permit  of  our  giving  it  its  due.  This  is  almost  proved  by  the 
bas-reliefs  that  survive.  The  "Stele  of  the  Vultures"  set  up  by  King  Ean- 
natum  of  Lagash,  the  porphyry  cylinder  of  Ibnishar,63  the  humorous  cari- 
catures (as  surely  they  must  be)  of  Ur-nina,M  and  above  all  the  "Victory 
Stele"  of  Naram-sin  share  the  crudity  of  Sumerian  sculpture,  but  have  in 
them  a  lusty  vitality  of  drawing  and  action  characteristic  of  a  young  and 
flourishing  art. 

Of  the  pottery  one  may  not  speak  so  leniently.  Perhaps  time  misleads  our 
judgment  by  having  preserved  the  worst;  perhaps  there  were  many  pieces 
as  well  carved  as  the  alabaster  vessels  discovered  at  Eridu;"  but  for  the  most 
part  Sumerian  pottery,  though  turned  on  the  wheel,  is  mere  earthenware, 
and  cannot  compare  with  the  vases  of  Elam.  Better  work  was  done  by  the 
goldsmiths.  Vessels  of  gold,  tasteful  in  design  and  delicate  in  finish,  have 

*  Such  ziggurats  have  helped  American  architects  to  mould  a  new  form  for  buildings 
forced  by  law  to  set  back  their  upper  stories  lest  they  impede  their  neighbor's  light.  His- 
tory suddenly  contracts  into  a  brief  coup  d'ceil  when  we  contemplate  in  one  glance  the 
brick  ziggurats  of  Sumeria  5000  years  old,  and  the  brick  ziggurats  of  contemporary 
New  York. 


been  found  in  the  earliest  graves  at  Ur,  some  as  old  as  4000  B.C."  The 
silver  vase  of  Entemenu,  now  in  the  Louvre,  is  as  stocky  as  Gudea,  but  is 
adorned  with  a  wealth  of  animal  imagery  finely  engraved.87  Best  of  all  is  the 
gold  sheath  and  lapis-lazuli  dagger  exhumed  at  Ur;68  here,  if  one  may  judge 
from  photographs,*  the  form  almost  touches  perfection.  The  ruins  have 
given  us  a  great  number  of  cylindrical  seals,  mostly  made  of  precious  metal 
or  stone,  with  reliefs  carefully  carved  upon  a  square  inch  or  two  of  surface; 
these  seem  to  have  served  the  Sumerians  in  place  of  signatures,  and  indicate 
a  refinement  of  life  and  manners  disturbing  to  our  naive  conception  of 
progress  as  a  continuous  rise  of  man  through  the  unfortunate  cultures  of  the 
past  to  the  unrivaled  zenith  of  today. 

Sumerian  civilization  may  be  summed  up  in  this  contrast  between  crude 
pottery  and  consummate  jewelry;  it  was  a  synthesis  of  rough  beginnings 
and  occasional  but  brilliant  mastery.  Here,  within  the  limits  of  our  present 
knowledge,  are  the  first  states  and  empires,  the  first  irrigation,  the  first  use 
of  gold  and  silver  as  standards  of  value,  the  first  business  contracts,  the 
first  credit  system,  the  first  code  of  law,  the  first  extensive  development 
of  writing,  the  first  stories  of  the  Creation  and  the  Flood,  the  first  libraries 
and  schools,  the  first  literature  and  poetry,  the  first  cosmetics  and  jewelry, 
the  first  sculpture  and  bas-relief,  the  first  palaces  and  temples,  the  first 
ornamental  metal  and  decorative  themes,  the  first  arch,  column,  vault  and 
dome.  Here,  for  the  first  known  time  on  a  large  scale,  appear  some  of  the 
sins  of  civilization:  slavery,  despotism,  ecclesiasticism,  and  imperialistic 
war.  It  was  a  life  differentiated  and  subtle,  abundant  and  complex. 
Already  the  natural  inequality  of  men  was  producing  a  new  degree  of 
comfort  and  luxury  for  the  strong,  and  a  new  routine  of  hard  and  dis- 
ciplined labor  for  the  rest.  The  theme  was  struck  on  which  history  would 
strum  its  myriad  variations. 


Sunterian  influence  in  Mesopotamia— Ancient  Arabia— Mesopo- 
tomian  influence  in  Egypt 

Nevertheless,  we  are  still  so  near  the  beginning  of  recorded  history  when 
we  speak  of  Sumeria  that  it  is  difficult  to  determine  the  priority  or  se- 
quence of  the  many  related  civilizations  that  developed  in  the  ancient  Near 

*  The  original  is  in  the  Iraq  Museum  at  Baghdad. 

CHAP.  VIl)  SUMERIA  135 

East.  The  oldest  written  records  known  to  us  are  Sumcrian;  this,  which  may 
be  a  whim  of  circumstance,  a  sport  of  mortality,  does  not  prove  that  the 
first  civilization  was  Sumerian.  Statuettes  and  other  remains  akin  to  those  of 
Sumeria  have  been  found  at  Ashur  and  Samarra,  in  what  became  Assyria;  we 
do  not  know  whether  this  early  culture  came  from  Sumeria  or  passed  to  it 
along  the  Tigris.  The  code  of  Hammurabi  resembles  that  of  Ur-engur  and 
Dungi,  but  we  cannot  be  sure  that  it  was  evolved  from  it  rather  than  from 
some  predecessor  ancestral  to  them  both.  It  is  only  probable,  not  certain, 
that  the  civilizations  of  Babylonia  and  Assyria  were  derived  from  or  fer- 
tilized by  that  of  Sumer  and  Akkad.*  The  gods  and  myths  of  Babylon  and 
Nineveh  are  in  many  cases  modifications  or  developments  of  Sumcrian  the- 
ology; and  the  languages  of  these  later  cultures  bear  the  same  relationship 
to  Sumeria  that  French  and  Italian  bear  to  Latin. 

Schweinfurth  has  called  attention  to  the  interesting  fact  that  though  the 
cultivation  of  barley,  millet  and  wheat,  and  the  domestication  of  cattle,  goats 
and  sheep,  appear  in  both  Egypt  and  Mesopotamia  as  far  back  as  our  rec- 
ords go,  these  cereals  and  animals  arc  found  in  their  wild  and  natural  state 
not  in  Egypt  but  in  western  Asia—especially  in  Yemen  or  ancient  Arabia. 
He  concludes  that  civilization— i.e.,  in  this  context,  the  cultivation  of  cereals 
and  the  use  of  domesticated  animals— appeared  in  unrecorded  antiquity  in 
Arabia,  and  spread  thence  in  a  "triangular  culture"  to  Mesopotamia  (Sumeria, 
Babylonia,  Assyria)  and  Egypt.70  Current  knowledge  of  primitive  Arabia  is 
too  slight  to  make  this  more  than  a  presentable  hypothesis. 

More  definite  is  the  derivation  of  certain  specific  elements  of  Egyptian 
culture  from  Sumeria  and  Babylonia.  We  know  that  trade  passed  between 
Mesopotamia  and  Egypt— certainly  via  the  isthmus  at  Suez,  and  probably 
by  water  from  the  ancient  outlets  of  Egyptian  rivers  on  the  Red  Sea.71  A 
look  at  the  map  explains  why  Egypt,  throughout  its  known  history,  has  be- 
longed to  Western  Asia  rather  than  to  Africa;  trade  and  culture  could  pass 
from  Asia  along  the  Mediterranean  to  the  Nile,  but  shortly  beyond  that  it 
was  balked  by  the  desert  which,  with  the  cataracts  of  the  Nile,  isolated 
Egypt  from  the  remainder  of  Africa.  Hence  it  is  natural  that  we  should 
find  many  Mcsopotamian  elements  in  the  primitive  culture  of  Egypt. 

The  farther  back  we  trace  the  Egyptian  language  the  more  affinities  it 
reveals  with  the  Semitic  tongues  of  the  Near  East.™  The  pictographic  writ- 
ing of  the  predynastic  Egyptians  seems  to  have  come  in  from  Sumcria.78 
The  cylindrical  seal,  which  is  of  unquestionably  Mesopotamian  origin,  ap- 
pears in  the  earliest  period  of  known  Egyptian  history,  and  then  disappears, 
as  if  an  imported  custom  had  been  displaced  by  a  native  mode.74  The  potter's 
wheel  is  not  known  in  Egypt  before  the  Fourth  Dynasty— long  after  its  ap- 
pearance in  Sumeria;  presumably  it  came  into  Egypt  from  the  Land  be- 


tween  the  Rivers  along  with  the  wheel  and  the  chariot.75  Early  Egyptian 
and  Babylonian  mace-heads  are  completely  identical  in  form.78  A  finely 
worked  flint  knife,  found  in  predynastic  Egyptian  remains  at  Gebcl-el-Arak, 
bears  reliefs  in  Mesopotamian  themes  and  style.77  Copper  was  apparently 
developed  in  western  Asia,  and  brought  thence  to  Egypt.78  Early  Egyptian 
architecture  resembles  Mesopotamian  in  the  use  of  the  recessed  panel  as  a 
decoration  for  brick  walls.79  Predynastic  pottery,  statuettes  and  decorative 
motives  are  in  many  cases  identical,  or  unmistakably  allied,  with  Mesopo- 
tamian products.80  Among  these  early  Egyptian  remains  are  small  figures  of 
a  goddess  of  evident  Asiatic  origin.  At  a  time  when  Egyptian  civilization 
seems  to  have  only  begun,  the  artists  of  Ur  were  making  statuary  and  reliefs 
whose  style  and  conventions  demonstrate  the  antiquity  of  these  arts  in 

Egypt  could  well  afford  to  concede  the  priority  of  Sumeria.  For  what- 
ever the  Nile  may  have  borrowed  from  the  Tigris  and  the  Euphrates,  it 
soon  flowered  into  a  civilization  specifically  and  uniquely  its  own;  one  of 
the  richest  and  greatest,  one  of  the  most  powerful  and  yet  one  of  the  most 
graceful,  cultures  in  history.  By  its  side  Sumeria  was  but  a  crude  beginning; 
and  not  even  Greece  or  Rome  would  surpass  it. 

*  A  great  scholar,  Elliot  Smith,  has  tried  to  offset  these  considerations  by  pointing  out 
that  although  barley,  millet  and  wheat  are  not  known  in  their  natural  state  in  Egypt,  it  is 
there  that  we  find  the  oldest  signs  of  their  cultivation;  and  he  believes  that  it  was  from 
Egypt  that  agriculture  and  civilization  came  to  Sumeria.82  The  greatest  of  American 
Egyptologists,  Professor  Breasted,  is  similarly  unconvinced  of  the  priority  of  Sumeria. 
Dr.  Breasted  believes  that  the  wheel  is  at  least  as  old  in  Egypt  as  in  Sumcria,  and  rejects 
the  hypothesis  of  Schweinfurth  on  the  ground  that  cereals  have  been  found  in  their 
native  state  in  the  highlands  of  Abyssinia. 




/.    In  the  Delta 

Alexandria— The  Nile— The  Pyrainids—The  Sphinx 

THIS  is  a  perfect  harbor.  Outside  the  long  breakwater  the  waves 
topple  over  one  another  roughly;  within  it  the  sea  is  a  silver  mirror. 
There,  on  the  little  island  of  Pharos,  when  Egypt  was  very  old,  Sostratus 
built  his  great  lighthouse  of  white  marble,  five  hundred  feet  high,  as  a 
beacon  to  all  ancient  mariners  of  the  Mediterranean,  and  as  one  of  the 
seven  wonders  of  the  world.  Time  and  the  nagging  waters  have  washed 
it  away,  but  a  new  lighthouse  has  taken  its  place,  and  guides  the  steamer 
through  the  rocks  to  the  quays  of  Alexandria.  Here  that  astonishing  boy- 
statesman,  Alexander,  founded  the  subtle,  polyglot  metropolis  that  was 
to  inherit  the  culture  of  Egypt,  Palestine  and  Greece.  In  this  harbor  Cxsar 
received  without  gladness  the  severed  head  of  Pompey. 

As  the  train  glides  through  the  city,  glimpses  come  of  unpaved  alleys 
and  streets,  heat  waves  dancing  in  the  air,  workingmen  naked  to  the  waist, 
black-garbed  women  bearing  burdens  sturdily,  white-robed  and  turbaned 
Moslems  of  regal  dignity,  and  in  the  distance  spacious  squares  and  shining 
palaces,  perhaps  as  fair  as  those  that  the  Ptolemies  built  when  Alexandria 
was  the  meeting-place  of  the  world.  Then  suddenly  it  is  open  country, 
and  the  city  recedes  into  the  horizon  of  the  fertile  Delta— that  green 
triangle  which  looks  on  the  map  like  the  leaves  of  a  lofty  palm-tree  held 
up  on  the  slender  stalk  of  the  Nile. 

Once,  no  doubt,  this  Delta  was  a  bay;  patiently  the  broad  stream  filled 
it  up,  too  slowly  to  be  seen,  with  detritus  carried  down  a  thousand 
miles;*  now  from  this  little  corner  of  mud,  enclosed  by  the  many  mouths 
of  the  river,  six  million  peasants  grow  enough  cotton  to  export  a  hundred 
million  dollars'  worth  of  it  every  year.  There,  bright  and  calm  under  the 

*  Even  the  ancient  geographers  (e.g.,  Strabo1)  believed  that  Egypt  had  once  been  under 
the  waters  of  the  Mediterranean,  and  that  its  deserts  had  been  the  bottom  of  the  sea. 



glaring  sun,  fringed  with  slim  palms  and  grassy  banks,  is  the  most  famous 
of  all  rivers.  We  cannot  see  the  desert  that  lies  so  close  beyond  it,  or  the 
great  empty  i^tf—river-beds— where  once  its  fertile  tributaries  flowed; 
we  cannot  realize  yet  how  precariously  narrow  a  thing  this  Egypt  is,  owing 
everything  to  the  river,  and  harassed  on  either  side  with  hostile,  shifting 

Now  the  train  passes  amid  the  alluvial  plain.  The  land  is  half  covered 
with  water,  and  crossed  everywhere  with  irrigation  canals.  In  the  ditches 
and  the  fields  black  fellaheen*  labor,  knowing  no  garment  but  a  cloth 
about  the  loins.  The  river  has  had  one  of  its  annual  inundations,  which 
begin  at  the  summer  solstice  and  last  for  a  hundred  days;  through  that  over- 
flow the  desert  became  fertile,  and  Egypt  blossomed,  in  Herodotus'  phrase, 
as  the  "gift  of  the  Nile."  It  is  clear  why  civilization  found  here  one  of 
its  earliest  homes;  nowhere  else  was  a  river  so  generous  in  irrigation,  and 
so  controllable  in  its  rise;  only  Mesopotamia  could  rival  it.  For  thousands 
of  years  the  peasants  have  watched  this  rise  with  anxious  eagerness;  to  this 
day  public  criers  announce  its  progress  each  morning  in  the  streets  of 
Cairo.1  So  the  past,  with  the  quiet  continuity  of  this  river,  flows  into  the 
future,  lightly  touching  the  present  on  its  way.  Only  historians  make 
divisions;  time  does  not. 

But  every  gift  must  be  paid  for;  and  the  peasant,  though  he  valued  the 
rising  waters,  knew  that  without  control  they  could  ruin  as  well  as  irrigate 
his  fields.  So  from  time  beyond  history  he  built  these  ditches  that  cross 
and  rccross  the  land;  he  caught  the  surplus  in  canals,  and  when  the  river 
fell  he  raised  the  water  with  buckets  pivoted  on  long  poles,  singing,  as 
he  worked,  the  songs  that  the  Nile  has  heard  for  five  thousand  years.  For 
as  these  peasants  arc  now,  sombre  and  laughterless  even  in  their  singing, 
so  they  have  been,  in  all  likelihood,  for  fifty  centuries.3  This  water-raising 
apparatus  is  as  old  as  the  Pyramids;  and  a  million  of  these  ]ellabecn,  despite 
the  conquests  of  Arabic,  still  speak  the  language  of  the  ancient  monuments.* 
Here  in  the  Delta,  fifty  miles  southeast  of  Alexandria,  is  the  site  of 
Naucratis,  once  filled  with  industrious,  scheming  Greeks;  thirty  miles 
farther  east,  the  site  of  Sai's,  where,  in  the  centuries  before  the  Persian 
and  Greek  conquests,  the  native  civilization  of  Egypt  had  its  last  revival; 
and  then,  a  hundred  and  twenty-nine  miles  southeast  of  Alexandria,  is 
Cairo.  A  beautiful  city,  but  not  Egyptian;  the  conquering  Moslems 

•  Plural  form  of  the  Arabic  fellah,  peasant;  from  f claha,  to  plough. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  1 39 

founded  it  in  A.D.  968;  then  the  bright  spirit  of  France  overcame  the 
gloomy  Arab  and  built  here  a  Paris  in  the  desert,  exotic  and  unreal.  One 
must  pass  through  it  by  motorcar  or  leisurely  fiacre  to  find  old  Egypt  at 
the  Pyramids. 

How  small  they  appear  from  the  long  road  that  approaches  them;  did 
we  come  so  far  to  see  so  little?  But  then  they  grow  larger,  as  if  they  were 
being  lifted  up  into  the  air;  round  a  turn  in  the  road  we  surprise  the  edge 
of  the  desert;  and  there  suddenly  the  Pyramids  confront  us,  bare  and 
solitary  in  the  sand,  gigantic  and  morose  against  an  Italian  sky.  A  motley 
crowd  scrambles  abomPfheir  base— stout  business  men  on  blinking  donkeys, 
stouter  ladies  secure  in  carts,  young  men  prancing  on  horseback,  young 
women  sitting  uncomfortably  on  camel-back,  their  silk  knees  glistening 
in  the  sun;  and  everywhere  grasping  Arabs.  We  stand  where  Cxsar  and 
Napoleon  stood,  and  remember  that  fifty  centuries  look  down  upon  us; 
where  the  Father  of  History  came  four  hundred  years  before  Caesar,  and 
heard  the  tales  that  were  to  startle  Pericles.  A  new  perspective  of  time 
comes  to  us;  two  millenniums  seem  to  fall  out  of  the  picture,  and  Cxsar, 
Herodotus  and  ourselves  appear  for  a  moment  contemporary  and  modern 
before  these  tombs  that  were  more  ancient  to  them  than  the  Greeks 
are  to  us. 

Nearby,  the  Sphinx,  half  lion  and  half  philosopher,  grimly  claws  the 
sand,  and  glares  unmoved  at  the  transient  visitor  and  the  eternal  plain. 
It  is  a  savage  monument,  as  if  designed  to  frighten  old  lechers  and  make 
children  retire  early.  The  lion  body  passes  into  a  human  head  with 
prognathous  jaws  and  cruel  eyes;  the  civilization  that  built  it  (ca.  2990 
B.C.)  had  not  quite  forgotten  barbarism.  Once  the  sand  covered  it,  and 
Herodotus,  who  saw  so  much  that  is  not  there,  says  not  a  word  of  it. 

Nevertheless,  what  wealth  these  old  Egyptians  must  have  had,  what 
power  and  skill,  even  in  the  infancy  of  history,  to  bring  these  vast  stones 
six  hundred  miles,  to  raise  some  of  them,  weighing  many  tons,  to  a  height 
of  half  a  thousand  feet,  and  to  pay,  or  even  to  feed,  the  hundred  thousand 
slaves  who  toiled  for  twenty  years  on  these  Pyramids!  Herodotus  has 
preserved  for  us  an  inscription  that  he  found  on  one  pyramid,  record- 
ing the  quantity  of  radishes,  garlic  and  onions  consumed  by  the  workmen 
who  built  it;  these  things,  too,  had  to  have  their  immortality.*  Despite 

*  Diodorus  Siculus,  who  must  always  be  read  sceptically,  writes:  "An  inscription  on  the 
larger  pyramid  .  .  .  sets  forth  that  on  vegetables  and  purgatives  for  the  workmen  there 
were  paid  out  over  1600  talents"— i.e.,  $16,000,000." 


these  familiar  friends  we  go  away  disappointed;  there  is  something  bar- 
barically  primitive— or  barbarically  modern— in  this  brute  hunger  for 
size.  It  is  the  memory  and  imagination  of  the  beholder  that,  swollen 
with  history,  make  these  monuments  great;  in  themselves  they  are  a  little 
ridiculous— vainglorious  tombs  in  which  the  dead  sought  eternal  life. 
Perhaps  pictures  have  too  much  ennobled  them:  photography  can  catch 
everything  but  dirt,  and  enhances  man-made  objects  with  noble  vistas  of 
land  and  sky.  The  sunset  at  Gizeh  is  greater  than  the  Pyramids. 

2.   Upstream 

Memphis-The  masterpiece  of  Queen  Hatshepsut-The  ''Colossi 
of  Memnon"— Luxor  and  Karnak—The  grandeur  of  Egyp- 
tian civilization 

From  Cairo  a  little  steamer  moves  up  the  river— i.e.,  southward— through 
six  leisurely  days  to  Karnak  and  Luxor.  Twenty  miles  below  Cairo  it 
passes  Memphis,  the  most  ancient  of  Egypt's  capitals.  Here,  where  the 
great  Third  and  Fourth  Dynasties  lived,  in  a  city  of  two  million  souls, 
nothing  now  greets  the  eye  but  a  row  of  small  pyramids  and  a  grove  of 
palms;  for  the  rest  there  is  only  desert,  infinite,  villainous  sand,  slipping 
under  the  feet,  stinging  the  eyes,  filling  the  pores,  covering  everything, 
stretching  from  Morocco  across  Sinai,  Arabia,  Turkestan,  Tibet  to  Mon- 
golia: along  that  sandy  belt  across  two  continents  civilization  once  built 
its  seats  and  now  is  gone,  driven  away,  as  the  ice  receded,  by  increasing 
heat  and  decreasing  rain.  By  the  Nile,  for  a  dozen  miles  on  either  side, 
runs  a  ribbon  of  fertile  soil;  from  the  Mediterranean  to  Nubia  there  is 
only  this  strip  redeemed  from  the  desert.  This  is  the  thread  upon  which 
hung  the  life  of  Egypt.  And  yet  how  brief  seems  the  life-span  of  Greece,  or 
the  millennium  of  Rome,  beside  the  long  record  from  Menes  to  Cleopatra! 

A  week  later  the  steamer  is  at  Luxor.  On  this  site,  now  covered  with 
Arab  hamlets  or  drifting  sand,  once  stood  the  greatest  of  Egypt's  capitals, 
the  richest  city  of  the  very  ancient  world,  known  to  the  Greeks  as  Thebes, 
and  to  its  own  people  as  Wesi  and  Ne.  On  the  eastern  slope  of  the  Nile  is 
the  famous  Winter  Palace  of  Luxor,  aflame  with  bougainvillea;  across  the 
river  the  sun  is  setting  over  the  Tombs  of  the  Kings  into  a  sea  of  sand, 
and  the  sky  is  flaked  with  gaudy  tints  of  purple  and  gold.  Far  in  the  west 
the  pillars  of  Queen  Hatshepsut's  noble  temple  gleam,  looking  for  all  the 
world  like  some  classic  colonnade. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  141 

In  the  morning  lazy  sailboats  ferry  the  seeker  across  a  river  so  quiet 
and  unpretentious  that  no  one  would  suspect  that  it  had  been  flowing  here 
for  uncounted  centuries.  Then  over  mile  after  mile  of  desert,  through 
dusty  mountain  passes  and  by  historic  graves,  until  the  masterpiece  of  the 
great  Queen  rises  still  and  white  in  the  trembling  heat.  Here  the  artist 
decided  to  transform  nature  and  her  hills  into  a  beauty  greater  than  her 
own:  into  the  very  face  of  the  granite  cliff  he  built  these  columns,  as 
stately  as  those  that  Ictinus  made  for  Pericles;  it  is  impossible,  seeing  these, 
to  doubt  that  Greece  took  her  architecture,  perhaps  through  Crete,  from 
this  initiative  race.  And  on  the  walls  vast  bas-reliefs,  alive  with  motion 
and  thought,  tell  the  story  of  the  first  great  woman  in  history,  and  not 
the  least  of  queens. 

On  the  road  back  sit  two  giants  in  stone,  representing  the  most  luxurious 
of  Egypt's  monarchs,  Amenhotep  HI,  but  mistakenly  called  the  "Colossi 
of  Memnon"  by  the  Baedekers  of  Greece.  Each  is  seventy  feet  high, 
weighs  seven  hundred  tons,  and  is  carved  out  of  a  single  rock.  On  the 
base  of  one  of  them  are  the  inscriptions  left  by  Greek  tourists  who  visited 
these  ruins  two  thousand  years  ago;  again  the  centuries  fall  out  of  reckon- 
ing, and  those  Greeks  seem  strangely  contemporary  with  us  in  the  presence 
of  these  ancient  things.  A  mile  to  the  north  lie  the  stone  remains  of 
Rameses  II,  one  of  the  most  fascinating  figures  in  history,  beside  whom 
Alexander  is  an  immature  trifle;  alive  for  ninety-nine  years,  emperor  for 
sixty-seven,  father  of  one  hundred  and  fifty  children;  here  he  is  a  statue,  once 
fifty-six  feet  high,  now  fifty-six  feet  long,  prostrate  and  ridiculous  in  the 
sand.  Napoleon's  savants  measured  him  zealously;  they  found  his  ear  three 
and  a  half  feet  long,  his  foot  five  feet  wide,  his  weight  a  thousand  tons; 
for  him  Bonaparte  should  have  used  his  later  salutation  of  Goethe:  "Voild 
un  homme!— behold  a  man!" 

All  around  now,  on  the  west  bank  of  the  Nile,  is  the  City  of  the  Dead. 
At  every  turn  some  burrowing  Egyptologist  has  unearthed  a  royal  tomb. 
The  grave  of  Tutenkhamon  is  closed,  locked  even  in  the  faces  of  those 
who  thought  that  gold  would  open  anything;  but  the  tomb  of  Seti  I  is 
open,  and  there  in  the  cool  earth  one  may  gaze  at  decorated  ceilings  and 
passages,  and  marvel  at  the  wealth  and  skill  that  could  build  such  sarcophagi 
and  surround  them  with  such  art.  In  one  of  these  tombs  the  excavators 
saw,  on  the  sand,  the  footprints  of  the  slaves  who  had  carried  the 
to  its  place  three  thousand  years  before.' 


But  the  best  remains  adorn  the  eastern  side  of  the  river.  Here  at  Luxor 
the  lordly  Amenhotep  HI,  with  the  spoils  of  Thutmose  Ill's  victories, 
began  to  build  his  most  pretentious  edifice;  death  came  upon  him  as  he 
built;  then,  after  the  work  had  been  neglected  for  a  century,  Rameses  II 
finished  it  in  regal  style.  At  once  the  quality  of  Egyptian  architecture 
floods  the  spirit:  here  are  scope  and  power,  not  beauty  merely,  but  a 
masculine  sublimity.  A  wide  court,  now  waste  with  sand,  paved  of  old 
with  marble;  on  three  sides  majestic  colonnades  matched  by  Karnak  alone; 
on  every  hand  carved  stone  in  bas-relief,  and  royal  statues  proud  even  in 
desolation.  Imagine  eight  long  stems  of  the  papyrus  plant— nurse  of  letters 
and  here  the  form  of  art;  at  the  base  of  the  fresh  unopened  flowers  bind 
the  stems  with  five  firm  bands  that  will  give  beauty  strength;  then  picture 
the  whole  stately  stalk  in  stone:  this  is  the  papyriform  column  of  Luxor. 
Fancy  a  court  of  such  columns,  upholding  massive  entablatures  and  shade- 
giving  porticoes;  see  the  whole  as  the  ravages  of  thirty  centuries  have  left 
it;  then  estimate  the  men  who,  in  what  we  once  thought  the  childhood  of 
civilization,  could  conceive  and  execute  such  monuments. 

Through  ancient  ruins  and  modern  squalor  a  rough  footpath  leads  to 
what  Egypt  keeps  as  its  final  offering— the  temples  of  Karnak.  Half  a 
hundred  Pharaohs  took  part  in  building  them,  from  the  last  dynasties  of 
the  Old  Kingdom  to  the  days  of  the  Ptolemies;  generation  by  generation 
the  structures  grew,  until  sixty  acres  were  covered  with  the  lordliest 
offerings  that  architecture  ever  made  to  the  gods.  An  "Avenue  of 
Sphinxes"  leads  to  the  place  where  Champollion,  founder  of  Egyptology, 
stood  in  1828  and  wrote: 

I  went  at  last  to  the  palace,  or  rather  to  the  city  of  monuments— 
to  Karnak.  There  all  the  magnificence  of  the  Pharaohs  appeared  to 
me,  all  that  men  have  imagined  and  executed  on  the  grandest  scale. 
,  .  .  .  No  people,  ancient  or  modern,  has  conceived  the  art  of  archi- 
tecture on  a  scale  so  sublime,  so  great,  so  grandiose,  as  the  ancient 
Egyptians.  They  conceived  like  men  a  hundred  feet  high.7 

To  understand  it  would  require  maps  and  plans,  and  all  an  architect's 
learning.  A  spacious  enclosure  of  many  courts  one-third  of  a  mile  on 
each  side;  a  population  of  once  86,000  statues;8  a  main  group  of  buildings, 
constituting  the  Temple  of  Amon,  one  thousand  by  three  hundred  feet; 
great  pylons  or  gates  between  one  court  and  the  next;  the  perfect  "Heraldic 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  143 

Pillars"  of  Thutmose  III,  broken  off  rudely  at  the  top,  but  still  of  astonish- 
ingly delicate  carving  and  design;  the  Festival  Hall  of  the  same  formidable 
monarch,  its  fluted  shafts  here  and  there  anticipating  all  the  power  of  the 
Doric  column  in  Greece;  the  little  Temple  of  Ptah,  with  graceful  pillars 
rivaling  the  living  palms  beside  them;  the  Promenade,  again  the  work  of 
Thutmose's  builders,  with  bare  and  massive  colonnades,  symbol  of  Egypt's 
Napoleon;  above  all,  the  Hypostyle  Hall,*  a  very  forest  of  one  hundred 
and  forty  gigantic  columns,  crowded  close  to  keep  out  the  exhausting 
sun,  flowering  out  at  their  tops  into  spreading  palms  of  stone,  and  holding 
up,  with  impressive  strength,  a  roof  of  mammoth  slabs  stretched  in  solid 
granite  from  capital  to  capital.  Nearby  two  slender  obelisks,  monoliths 
complete  in  symmetry  and  grace,  rise  like  pillars  of  light  amid  the  ruins 
of  statues  and  temples,  and  announce  in  their  inscriptions  the  proud 
message  of  Queen  Hatshepsut  to  the  world.  These  obelisks,  the  carv- 
ing says, 

are  of  hard  granite  from  the  quarries  of  the  South;  their  tops  are 
of  fine  gold  chosen  from  the  best  in  all  foreign  lands.  They  can  be 
seen  from  afar  on  the  river;  the  splendor  of  their  radiance  fills  the 
Two  Lands,  and  when  the  solar  disc  appears  between  them  it  is 
truly  as  if  he  rose  up  into  the  horizon  of  the  sky.  .  .  .  You  who  after 
long  years  shall  see  these  monuments,  who  shall  speak  of  what  I 
have  done,  you  will  say,  "We  do  not  know,  we  do  not  know  how 
they  can  have  made  a  whole  mountain  of  gold."  .  .  .  To  guild  them 
I  have  given  gold  measured  by  the  bushel,  as  though  it  were  sacks 
of  grain,  ...  for  I  knew  that  Karnak  is  the  celestial  horizon  of  the 

What  a  queen,  and  what  kings!  Perhaps  this  first  great  civilization  was 
the  finest  of  all,  and  we  have  but  begun  to  uncover  its  glory?  Near  the 
Sacred  Lake  at  Karnak  men  are  digging,  carrying  away  the  soil  patiently 
in  little  paired  baskets  slung  over  the  shoulder  on  a  pole;  an  Egyptologist 
is  bending  absorbed  over  hieroglyphics  on  two  stones  just  rescued  from 
the  earth;  he  is  one  of  a  thousand  such  men,  Carters  and  Breasteds  and 
Masperos,  Petries  and  Caparts  and  Weigalls,  living  simply  here  in  the  heat 
and  dust,  trying  to  read  for  us  the  riddle  of  the  Sphinx,  to  snatch  from  the 
secretive  soil  the  art  and  literature,  the  history  and  wisdom  of  Egypt. 

*  A  model  of  this  can  be  seen  at  the  Metropolitan  Museum  of  An,  New  York. 


Every  day  the  earth  and  the  elements  fight  against  them;  superstition 
curses  and  hampers  them;  moisture  and  corrosion  attack  the  very  monu- 
ments they  have  exhumed;  and  the  same  Nile  that  gives  food  to  Egypt 
creeps  in  its  overflow  into  the  ruins  of  Karnak,  loosens  the  pillars,  tumbles 
them  down,*  and  leaves  upon  them,  when  it  subsides,  a  deposit  of  saltpetre 
that  eats  like  a  leprosy  into  the  stone. 

Let  us  contemplate  the  glory  of  Egypt  once  more,  in  her  history  and 
her  civilization,  before  her  last  monuments  crumble  into  the  sand. 


1.  The  Discovery  of  Egypt 
Champollion  and  the  Rosetta  Stone 

The  recovery  of  Egypt  is  one  of  the  most  brilliant  chapters  in  arche- 
ology. The  Middle  Ages  knew  of  Egypt  as  a  Roman  colony  and  a  Chris- 
tian settlement;  the  Renaissance  presumed  that  civilization  had  begun  with 
Greece;  even  the  Enlightenment,  though  it  concerned  itself  intelligently 
with  China  and  India,  knew  nothing  of  Egypt  beyond  the  Pyramids.  Egyp- 
tology was  a  by-product  of  Napoleonic  imperialism.  When  the  great  Cor- 
sican  led  a  French  expedition  to  Egypt  in  1798  he  took  with  him  a  number 
of  draughtsmen  and  engineers  to  explore  and  map  the  terrain,  and  made^ 
place  also  for  certain  scholars  absurdly  interested  in  Egypt  for  the  sake  of 
a  better  understanding  of  history.  It  was  this  corps  of  men  who  first  re- 
vealed the  temples  of  Luxor  and  Karnak  to  the  modern  world;  and  the 
elaborate  Description  de  Ufigypte  (1809-13)  which  they  prepared  for  the 
French  Academy  was  the  first  milestone  in  the  scientific  study  of  this  for- 
gotten civilization.10 

For  many  years,  however,  they  were  unable  to  read  the  inscriptions  sur- 
viving on  the  monuments.  Typical  of  the  scientific  temperament  was  the 
patient  devotion  with  which  Champollion,  one  of  these  savants,  applied 
himself  to  the  decipherment  of  the  hieroglyphics.  He  found  at  last  an 
obelisk  covered  with  such  "sacred  carvings"  in  Egyptian,  but  bearing  at  the 
base  a  Greek  inscription  which  indicated  that  the  writing  concerned  Ptolemy 
and  Cleopatra.  Guessing  that  two  hieroglyphics  often  repeated,  with  a  royal 
cartouche  attached,  were  the  names  of  these  rulers,  he  made  out  tentatively 
(1822)  eleven  Egyptian  letters;  this  was  the  first  proof  that  Egypt  had  had 

*  On  October  3,  1899,  eleven  columns  at  Karnak,  loosened  by  the  water,  fell  to  the 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  145 

an  alphabet.  Then  he  applied  this  alphabet  to  a  great  black  stone  slab  that 
Napoleon's  troops  had  stumbled  upon  near  the  Rosetta  mouth  of  the  Nile. 
This  "Rosetta  Stone"*  contained  an  inscription  in  three  languages:  first  in 
hieroglyphics,  second  in  "demotic"— the  popular  script  of  the  Egyptians— and 
third  in  Greek.  With  his  knowledge  of  Greek,  and  the  eleven  letters  made 
out  from  the  obelisk,  Champollion,  after  more  than  twenty  years  of  labor, 
deciphered  the  whole  inscription,  discovered  the  entire  Egyptian  alphabet, 
and  opened  the  way  to  the  recovery  of  a  lost  world.  It  was  one  of  the 
peaks  in  the  history  of  history,  t11 

2.  Prehistoric  Egypt 
Paleolithic— Neolithic— The  Badarians—Predynastic—Race 

Since  the  radicals  of  one  age  are  the  reactionaries  of  the  next,  it  was  not 
to  be  expected  that  the  men  who  created  Egyptology  should  be  the  first  to 
accept  as  authentic  the  remains  of  Egypt's  Old  Stone  Age;  after  forty  les 
savants  ne  sont  pas  curieux.  When  the  first  flints  were  unearthed  in  the 
valley  of  the  Nile,  Sir  Flinders  Petrie,  not  usually  hesitant  with  figures, 
classed  them  as  the  work  of  post-dynastic  generations;  and  Maspero,  whose 
lordly  erudition  did  no  hurt  to  his  urbane  and  polished  style,  ascribed  neo- 
lithic Egyptian  pottery  to  the  Middle  Kingdom.  Nevertheless,  in  1895  De 
Morgan  revealed  an  almost  continuous  gradation  of  paleolithic  cultures- 
corresponding  substantially  with  their  succession  in  Europe— in  the  flint 
hand-axes,  harpoons,  arrow-heads  and  hammers  exhumed  all  along  the 
Nile."  Imperceptibly  the  paleolithic  remains  graduate  into  neolithic  at  depths 
indicating  an  age  10,000-4000  B.C.14  The  stone  tools  become  more  refined, 
and  reach  indeed  a  level  of  sharpness,  finish  and  precision  uncqualed  by  any 
other  neolithic  culture  known."  Towards  the  end  of  the  period  metal  work 
enters  in  the  form  of  vases,  chisels  and  pins  of  copper,  and  ornaments  of 
silver  and  gold.10 

Finally,  as  a  transition  to  history,  agriculture  appears.  In  the  year  1901, 
near  the  little  town  of  Badari  (half  way  between  Cairo  and  Karnak),  bodies 
were  excavated  amid  implements  indicating  a  date  approximating  to  forty 
centuries  before  Christ.  In  the  intestines  of  these  bodies,  preserved  through 
six  millenniums  by  the  dry  heat  of  the  sand,  were  husks  of  unconsumed 
barley."  Since  barley  does  not  grow  wild  in  Egypt,  it  is  presumed  that  the 
Badarians  had  learned  to  cultivate  cereals.  From  that  early  age  the  in- 

*  Now  in  the  British  Museum. 

fThc  Swedish  diplomat  Akcrblad  in  1802,  and  the  versatile  English  physicist  Thomas 
Young  in  1814,  had  helped  by  partly  deciphering  the  Rosetta  Stone.13 


habitants  of  the  Nile  valley  began  the  work  of  irrigation,  cleared  the  jungles 
and  the  swamps,  won  the  river  from  the  crocodile  and  the  hippopotamus, 
and  slowly  laid  the  groundwork  of  civilization. 

These  and  other  remains  give  us  some  inkling  of  Egyptian  life  before  the 
first  of  the  historic  dynasties.  It  was  a  culture  midway  between  hunting  and 
agriculture,  and  just  beginning  to  replace  stone  with  metal  tools.  The  peo- 
ple made  boats,  ground  corn,  wove  linen  and  carpets,  had  jewels  and  per- 
fumes, barbers  and  domesticated  animals,  and  delighted  to  draw  pictures, 
chiefly  of  the  prey  they  pursued.18  They  painted  upon  their  simple  pottery 
figures  of  mourning  women,  representations  of  animals  and  men,  and  ge- 
ometrical designs;  and  they  carved  such  excellent  products  as  the  Gebel-el- 
Arak  knife.  They  had  pictographic  writing,  and  Sumerian-like  cylinder 

No  one  knows  whence  these  early  Egyptians  came.  Learned  guesses  in- 
cline to  the  view  that  they  were  a  cross  between  Nubian,  Ethiopian  and 
Libyan  natives  on  one  side  and  Semitic  or  Armenoid  immigrants  on  the 
other;80  even  at  that  date  there  were  no  pure  races  on  the  earth.  Probably  the 
invaders  or  immigrants  from  Western  Asia  brought  a  higher  culture  with 
them,"  and  their  intermarriage  with  the  vigorous  native  stocks  provided 
that  ethnic  blend  which  is  often  the  prelude  to  a  new  civilization.  Slowly, 
from  4000  to  3000  B.C.,  these  mingling  groups  became  a  people,  and  created 
the  Egypt  of  history. 

3.  The  Old  Kingdom 

The  "nowcs"-The  first  historic  individual-"Cheops"-"Che- 

phren"—The  purpose  of  the  Pyramids— Art  of  the  tombs— 


Already,  by  4000  B.C.,  these  peoples  of  the  Nile  had  forged  a  form 
of  government.  The  population  along  the  river  was  divided  into  "nomes,"* 
in  each  of  which  the  inhabitants  were  essentially  of  one  stock,  acknowl- 
edged the  same  totem,  obeyed  the  same  chief,  and  worshiped  the  same 
gods  by  the  same  rites.  Throughout  the  history  of  ancient  Egypt  these 
nomes  persisted,  their  "nomarchs"  or  rulers  having  more  or  less  power 
and  autonomy  according  to  the  weakness  or  strength  of  the  reigning 
Pharaoh.  As  all  developing  structures  tend  toward  an  increasing  inter- 
dependence of  the  parts,  so  in  this  case  the  growth  of  trade  and  the  rising 

*  So  called  by  the  Greeks  from  their  word  for  law  (nomos) . 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  147 

costliness  of  war  forced  the  nomes  to  organize  themselves  into  two  king- 
doms—one in  the  south,  one  in  the  north;  a  division  probably  reflecting 
the  conflict  between  African  natives  and  Asiatic  immigrants.  This  danger- 
ous accentuation  of  geographic  and  ethnic  diff erences  was  resolved  for 
a  time  when  Menes,  a  half-legendary  figure,  brought  the  "Two  Lands" 
under  his  united  power,  promulgated  a  body  of  laws  given  him  by  the 
god  Thoth,"  established  the  first  historic  dynasty,  built  a  new  capital  at 
Memphis,  "taught  the  people"  (in  the  words  of  an  ancient  Greek  historian) 
"to  use  tables  and  couches,  and  .  .  .  introduced  luxury  and  an  extravagant 
manner  of  life."88 

The  first  real  person  in  known  history  is  not  a  conqueror  or  a  king  but 
an  artist  and  a  scientist— Imhotep,  physician,  architect  and  chief  adviser 
of  King  Zoser  (ca.  3150  B.C.).  He  did  so  much  for  Egyptian  medicine 
that  later  generations  worshiped  him  as  a  god  of  knowledge,  author  of 
their  sciences  and  their  arts;  and  at  the  same  time  he  appears  to  have 
founded  the  school  of  architecture  which  provided  the  next  dynasty  with 
the  first  great  builders  in  history.  It  was  under  his  administration,  accord- 
ing to  Egyptian  tradition,  that  the  first  stone  house  was  built;  it  was  he  who 
planned  the  oldest  Egyptian  structure  extant— the  Step-Pyramid  of 
Sakkara,  a  terraced  structure  of  stone  which  for  centuries  set  the  style  in 
tombs;  and  apparently  it  was  he  who  designed  the  funerary  temple  of 
Zoser,  with  its  lovely  lotus  columns  and  its  limestone  paneled  walls."  In 
these  old  remains  at  Sakkarah,  at  what  is  almost  the  beginning  of  historic 
Egyptian  art,  we  find  fluted  shafts  as  fair  as  any  that  Greece  would  build," 
reliefs  full  of  realism  and  vitality,89  green  faience— richly  colored  glazed 
earthenware— rivaling  the  products  of  medieval  Italy,*1  and  a  power- 
ful stone  figure  of  King  Zoser  himself,  obscured  in  its  details  by  the  blows 
of  time,  but  still  revealing  an  astonishingly  subtle  and  sophisticated  face.28 

We  do  not  know  what  concourse  of  circumstance  made  the  Fourth 
Dynasty  the  most  important  in  Egyptian  history  before  the  Eighteenth. 
Perhaps  it  was  the  lucrative  mining  operations  in  the  last  reign  of  the 
Third,  perhaps  the  ascendancy  of  Egyptian  merchants  in  Mediterranean 
trade,  perhaps  the  brutal  energy  of  Khufu,*  first  Pharaoh  of  the  new 
house.  Herodotus  has  passed  on  to  us  the  traditions  of  the  Egyptian 
priests  concerning  this  builder  of  the  first  of  Gizeh's  pyramids: 

*  The  "Cheops"  of  Herodotus,  r.  3098-75  B.C. 


Now  they  tell  me  that  to  the  reign  of  Rhampsinitus  there  was  a 
perfect  distribution  of  justice  and  that  all  Egypt  was  in  a  high  state 
of  prosperity;  but  that  after  him  Cheops,  coming  to  reign  over 
them,  plunged  into  every  kind  of  wickedness,  for  that,  having  shut 
up  all  the  temples,  ...  he  ordered  all  the  Egyptians  to  work  for 
himself.  Some,  accordingly,  were  appointed  to  draw  stones  from 
the  quarries  in  the  Arabian  mountains  down  to  the  Nile,  others  he 
ordered  to  receive  the  stones  when  transported  in  vessels  across  the 
river.  .  .  .  And  they  worked  to  the  number  of  a  hundred  thousand 
men  at  a  time,  each  party  during  three  months.  The  time  during 
which  the  people  were  thus  harassed  by  toil  lasted  ten  years  on  the 
road  which  they  constructed,  and  along  which  they  drew  the  stones; 
a  work,  in  my  opinion,  not  much  less  than  the  Pyramid.* 

Of  his  successor  and  rival  builder,  Khafre,*  we  know  something  almost 
at  first  hand;  for  the  diorite  portrait  which  is  among  the  treasures  of  the 
Cairo  Museum  pictures  him,  if  not  as  he  looked,  certainly  as  we  might 
conceive  this  Pharaoh  of  the  second  pyramid,  who  ruled  Egypt  for 
fifty-six  years.  On  his  head  is  the  falcon,  symbol  of  the  royal  power;  but 
even  without  that  sign  we  should  know  that  he  was  every  inch  a  king. 
Proud,  direct,  fearless,  piercing  eyes;  a  powerful  nose  and  a  frame  of 
reserved  and  quiet  strength;  it  is  evident  that  nature  had  long  since  learned 
how  to  make  men,  and  art  had  long  since  learned  how  to  represent  them. 

Why  did  these  men  build  pyramids?  Their  purpose  was  not  archi- 
tectural but  religious;  the  pyramids  were  tombs,  lineally  descended  from 
the  most  primitive  of  burial  mounds.  Apparently  the  Pharaoh  believed, 
like  any  commoner  among  his  people,  that  every  living  body  was  inhabited 
by  a  double,  or  ka,  which  need  not  die  with  the  breath;  and  that  the  ka 
would  survive  all  the  more  completely  if  the  flesh  were  preserved  against 
hunger,  violence  and  decay.  The  pyramid,  by  its  heigh t,f  its  form  and 
its  position,  sought  stability  as  a  means  to  deathlessness;  and  except  for 
its  square  corners  it  took  the  natural  form  that  any  homogeneous  group 
of  solids  would  take  if  allowed  to  fall  unimpeded  to  the  earth.  Again,  it 
was  to  have  permanence  and  strength;  therefore  stones  were  piled  up  here 
with  mad  patience  as  if  they  had  grown  by  the  wayside  and  had  not  been 
carried  from  quarries  hundreds  of  miles  away.  In  Khufu's  pyramid  there 

•The  "Chcphrcn"  of  Herodotus,  r.  3067-11  B.C. 

fThe  word  pyramid  is  apparently  derived  from  the  Egyptian  word  pi-re-mus,  altitude, 
rather  than  from  the  Greek  pyr,  fire. 

CHAP.  Vin)  EGYPT  149 

are  two  and  a  half  million  blocks,  some  of  them  weighing  one  hundred 
and  fifty  tons,88  all  of  them  averaging  two  and  a  half  tons;  they  cover  half 
a  million  square  feet,  and  rise  48 1  feet  into  the  air.  And  the  mass  is  solid; 
only  a  few  blocks  were  omitted,  to  leave  a  secret  passage  way  for  the 
carcass  of  the  King.  A  guide  leads  the  trembling  visitor  on  all  fours  into 
the  cavernous  mausoleum,  up  a  hundred  crouching  steps  to  the  very  heart 
of  the  pyramid;  there  in  the  damp,  still  center,  buried  in  darkness  and 
secrecy,  once  rested  the  bones  of  Khufu  and  his  queen.  The  marble 
sarcophagus  of  the  Pharaoh  is  still  in  place,  but  broken  and  empty.  Even 
these  stones  could  not  deter  human  thievery,  nor  all  the  curses  of  the  gods. 
Since  the  ka  was  conceived  as  the  minute  image  of  the  body,  it  had  to 
be  fed,  clothed  and  served  after  the  death  of  the  frame.  Lavatories  were 
provided  in  some  royal  tombs  for  the  convenience  of  the  departed  soul; 
and  a  funerary  text  expresses  some  anxiety  lest  the  ka,  for  want  of  food, 
should  feed  upon  its  own  excreta"  One  suspects  that  Egyptian  burial 
customs,  if  traced  to  their  source,  would  lead  to  the  primitive  interment 
of  a  warrior's  weapons  with  his  corpse,  or  to  some  institution  like  the 
Hindu  suttee— the  burial  of  a  man's  wives  and  slaves  with  him  that  they 
may  attend  to  his  needs.  This  having  proved  irksome  to  the  wives  and 
slaves,  painters  and  sculptors  were  engaged  to  draw  pictures,  carve  bas- 
reliefs,  and  make  statuettes  resembling  these  aides;  by  a  magic  formula, 
usually  inscribed  upon  them,  the  carved  or  painted  objects  would  be 
quite  as  effective  as  the  real  ones.  A  man's  descendants  were  inclined  to 
be  lazy  and  economical,  and  even  if  he  had  left  an  endowment  to  cover 
the  costs  they  were  apt  to  neglect  the  rule  that  religion  originally  put 
upon  them  of  supplying  the  dead  with  provender.  Hence  pictorial  sub- 
stitutes were  in  any  case  a  wise  precaution:  they  could  provide  the  ka  of 
the  deceased  with  fertile  fields,  plump  oxen,  innumerable  servants  and 
busy  artisans,  at  an  attractively  reduced  rate.  Having  discovered  this 
principle,  the  artist  accomplished  marvels  with  it.  One  tomb  picture  shows 
a  field  being  ploughed,  the  next  shows  the  grain  being  reaped  or  threshed, 
another  the  bread  being  baked;  one  shows  the  bull  copulating  with  the 
cow,  another  the  calf  being  born,  another  the  grown  cattle  being  slaugh- 
tered, another  the  meat  served  hot  on  the  dish.32  A  fine  limestone  bas-relief 
in  the  tomb  of  Prince  Rahotep  portrays  the  dead  man  enjoying  the  varied 
victuals  on  the  table  before  him.88  Never  since  has  art  done  so  much 
for  men 


Finally  the  ka  was  assured  long  life  not  only  by  burying  the  cadaver 
in  a  sarcophagus  of  the  hardest  stone,  but  by  treating  it  to  the  most  pains- 
taking mummification.  So  well  was  this  done  that  to  this  day  bits  of  hair 
and  flesh  cling  to  the  royal  skeletons.  Herodotus  vividly  describes  the 
Egyptian  embalmer's  art: 

First  they  draw  out  the  brains  through  the  nostrils  with  an  iron 
hook,  raking  part  of  it  out  in  this  manner,  the  rest  by  the  infusion 
of  drugs.  Then  with  a  sharp  stone  they  make  an  incision  in  the  side, 
and  take  out  all  the  bowels;  and  having  cleansed  the  abdomen  and 
rinsed  it  with  palm  wine,  they  next  sprinkle  it  with  pounded  per- 
fume. Then,  having  filled  the  belly  with  pure  myrrh,  cassia  and 
other  perfumes,  they  sew  it  up  again;  and  when  they  have  done  this 
they  steep  it  in  natron,*  leaving  it  under  for  seventy  days;  for  a 
longer  time  than  this  it  is  not  lawful  to  steep  it.  At  the  expiration 
of  seventy  days  they  wash  the  corpse,  and  wrap  the  whole  body  in 
bandages  of  waxen  cloth,  smearing  it  with  gum,  which  the  Egyp- 
tians commonly  use  instead  of  glue.  After  this  the  relations,  hav- 
ing taken  the  body  back  again,  make  a  wooden  case  in  the  shape  of 
a  man,  and  having  made  it  they  enclose  the  body;  and  then,  having 
fastened  it  up,  they  store  it  in  a  sepulchral  chamber,  setting  it  up- 
right against  the  wall.  In  this  manner  they  prepare  the  bodies  that 
are  embalmed  in  the  most  expensive  way.*4 

"All  the  world  fears  Time,"  says  an  Arab  proverb,  "but  Time  fears  the 
Pyramids."18  However,  the  pyramid  of  Khufu  has  lost  twenty  feet  of  its 
height,  and  all  its  ancient  marble  casing  is  gone;  perhaps  Time  is  only 
leisurely  with  it.  Beside  it  stands  Khafre's  pyramid,  a  trifle  smaller,  but 
still  capped  with  the  granite  casing  that  once  covered  it  all.  Humbly  be- 
yond this  squats  the  pyramid  of  Khafre's  successor  Menkaure,t  covered 
not  with  granite  but  with  shamefaced  brick,  as  if  to  announce  that  when 
men  raised  it  the  zenith  of  the  Old  Kingdom  had  passed.  The  statues  of 
Menkaure  that  have  come  down  to  us  show  him  as  a  man  more  refined  and 
less  forceful  than  Khafre.|  ^^H^ation,_like „!!£?!  ^destroys  what  it  has 
perfected,  Already,  it  may  be,  the  growth  of  comforts  and  luxuries,  the 

*  A  silicate  of  sodium  and  aluminum:  Na2ALSi,O102HsO. 
t  The  "Mycerinus"  of  Herodotus,  r.  301 1-2988  B.C. 

•jCf.  the  statues  of  Menkaure  and  his  consort  in  the  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art, 
New  York. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  151 

progress  of  manners  and  morals,  had  made  men  lovers  of  peace  and  haters 
of  war.  Suddenly  a  new  figure  appeared,  usurped  Menkaure's  throne,  and 
put  an  end  to  the  pyramid-builders'  dynasty. 

4.  The  Middle  Kingdom 
The  Feudal  Age— The  Twelfth  Dynasty— The  Hyksos  Domination 

ICings  were  never  so  plentiful  as  in  Egypt.  History  lumps  them  into 
dynasties— monarchs  of  one  line  or  family;  but  even  then  they  burden  the 
memory  intolerably.*  One  of  these  early  Pharaohs,  Pepi  II,  ruled  Egypt/ 
for  ninety-four  years  (2738-2644  B.C.)— the  longest  reign  in  history. j 
When  he  died  anarchy  and  dissolution  ensued,  the  Pharaohs  lost  control, 
and  feudal  barons  ruled  the  nomes  independently:  this  alternation  between 
centralized  and  decentralized  power  is  one  of  the  cyclical  rhythms  of  his- 
tory, as  if  men  tired  alternately  of  immoderate  liberty  and  excessive  order. 
After  a  Dark  Age  of  four  chaotic  centuries  a  strong-willed  Charlemagne 
arose,  set  things  severely  in  order,  changed  the  capital  from  Memphis  to 
Thebes,  and  under  the  title  of  Amcnemhet  1  inaugurated  that  Twelfth 
Dynasty  during  which  all  the  arts,  excepting  perhaps  architecture,  reached 
a  height  of  excellence  never  equaled  in  known  Egypt  before  or  again. 
Through  an  old  inscription  Amenemhet  speaks  to  us: 

I  was  one  who  cultivated  grain  and  loved  the  harvest  god; 
The  Nile  greeted  me  and  every  valley;  * 

None  was  hungry  in  my  years,  none  thirsted  then; 
Men  dwelt  in  peace  through  that  which  I  wrought,  and  conversed 
of  me. 

His  reward  was  a  conspiracy  among  the  Talleyrands  and  Pouches  whom 
he  had  raised  to  high  office.  He  put  it  down  with  a  mighty  hand,  but  left 
for  his  son,  Polonius-like,  a  scroll  of  bitter  counsel—an  admirable  formula 
for  despotism,  but  a  heavy  price  to  pay  for  royalty: 

*  Historians  have  helped  themselves  by  further  grouping  the  dynasties  into  periods:  (i) 
The  Old  Kingdom,  Dynasties  I- VI  (3500-2631  B.C.),  followed  by  an  interlude  of  chaos; 
(2)  The  Middle  Kingdom,  Dynasties  XI-XIV  (2375-1800  B.C.),  followed  by  another 
chaotic  interlude;  (3)  The  Empire,  Dynasties  XVIII-XX  (1580-1100  B.C.),  followed  by  a 
period  of  divided  rule  from  rival  capitals;  and  (4;  The  Saite  Age^  Dynasty  XXVI,  663- 
525.  All  these  dates  except  the  last  arc  approximate,  and  Egyptologists  amuse  themselves 
by  moving  the  earlier  ones  up  and  down  by  centuries. 


Hearken  to  that  which  I  say  to  thce, 

That  thou  mayest  be  king  of  the  earth,  .  .  . 

That  thou  mayest  increase  good: 

Harden  thyself  against  all  subordinates— 

The  people  give  heed  to  him  who  terrorizes  them; 

Approach  them  not  alone. 

Fill  not  thy  heart  with  a  brother, 

Know  not  a  friend;  .  .  . 

When  thou  sleepest,  guard  for  thyself  thine  own  heart; 

For  a  man  hath  no  friend  in  the  day  of  evil." 

This  stern  ruler,  who  seems  to  us  so  human  across  four  thousand  years, 
established  a  system  of  administration  that  held  for  half  a  millennium. 
Wealth  grew  again,  and  then  art;  Senusret  I  built  a  great  canal  from  the 
Nile  to  the  Red  Sea,  repelled  Nubian  invaders,  and  erected  great  temples  at 
Hcliopolis,  Abydos,  and  Karnak;  ten  colossal  seated  figures  of  him  have 
cheated  time,  and  litter  the  Cairo  Museum.  Another  Senusret— the  Third- 
began  the  subjugation  of  Palestine,  drove  back  the  recurrent  Nubians, 
and  raised  a  stele  or  slab  at  the  southern  frontier,  "not  from  any  desire  that 
ye  should  worship  it,  but  that  ye  should  fight  for  it."37  Amenemhet  III,  a 
great  administrator,  builder  of  canals  and  irrigation,  put  an  end  (perhaps 
too  effectively)  to  the  power  of  the  barons,  and  replaced  them  with 
appointees  of  the  king.  Thirteen  years  after  his  death  Egypt  was  plunged 
into  disorder  by  a  dispute  among  rival  claimants  to  the  throne,  and  the 
Middle  Kingdom  ended  in  two  centuries  of  turmoil  and  disruption.  Then 
the  Hyksos,  nomads  from  Asia,  invaded  disunited  Egypt,  set  fire  to  the 
cities,  razed  the  temples,  squandered  the  accumulated  wealth,  destroyed 
much  of  the  accumulated  art,  and  for  two  hundred  years  subjected  the 
Nile  valley  to  the  rule  of  the  "Shepherd  Kings."  Ancient  civilizations 
were  little  isles  in  a  sea  of  barbarism,  prosperous  settlements  surrounded 
by  hungry,  envious  and  warlike  hunters  and  herders;  at  any  moment  the 
wall  of  defense  might  be  broken  down.  So  the  Kassites  raided  Babylonia, 
the  Gauls  attacked  Greece  and  Rome,  the  Huns  overran  Italy,  the  Mongols 
came  down  upon  Peking. 

Soon,  however,  the  conquerors  in  their  turn  grew  fat  and  prosperous, 
and  lost  control;  the  Egyptians  rose  in  a  war  of  liberation,  expelled  the 
Hyksos,  and  established  that  Eighteenth  Dynasty  which  was  to  lift  Egypt 
to  greater  wealth,  power  and  glory  than  ever  before. 


5.  The  Empire 
The  great  queen— Thutmose  Ill—The  zenith  of  Egypt 

Perhaps  the  invasion  had  brought  another  rejuvenation  by  the  infusion 
of  fresh  blood;  but  at  the  same  time  the  new  age  marked  the  beginning 
of  a  thousand-year  struggle  betwen  Egypt  and  Western  Asia.  Thutmose 
I  not  only  consolidated  the  power  of  the  new  empire,  but— on  the  ground 
that  western  Asia  must  be  controlled  to  prevent  further  interruptions- 
invaded  Syria,  subjugated  it  from  the  coast  to  Carchemish,  put  it  under 
guard  and  tribute,  and  returned  to  Thebes  laden  with  spoils  and  the  glory 
that  always  comes  from  the  killing  of  men.  At  the  end  of  his  thirty-year 
reign  he  raised  his  daughter  Hatshepsut  to  partnership  with  him  on  the 
throne.  For  a  time  her  husband  and  step-brother  ruled  as  Thutmose  II, 
and  dying,  named  as  his  successor  Thutmose  HI,  son  of  Thutmose  I  by  a 
concubine."  But  Hatshepsut  set  this  high-destined  youngster  aside,  assumed 
full  royal  powers,  and  proved  herself  a  king  in  everything  but  gender. 

Even  this  exception  was  not  conceded  by  her.  Since  sacred  tradition 
required  that  every  Egyptian  ruler  should  be  a  son  of  the  great  god  Amon, 
Hatshepsut  arranged  to  be  made  at  once  male  and  divine.  A  biography 
was  invented  for  her  by  which  Amon  had  descended  upon  Hatshepsut's 
mother  Ahmasi  in  a  flood  of  perfume  and  light;  his  attentions  had  been 
gratefully  received;  and  on  his  departure  he  had  announced  that  Ahmasi 
would  give  birth  to  a  daughter  in  whom  all  the  valor  and  strength  of  the 
god  would  be  made  manifest  on  earth."  To  satisfy  the  prejudices  of  her 
people,  and  perhaps  the  secret  desire  of  her  heart,  the  great  Queen  had 
herself  represented  on  the  monuments  as  a  bearded  and  breastless  warrior; 
and  though  the  inscriptions  referred  to  her  with  the  feminine  pronoun, 
they  did  not  hesitate  to  speak  of  her  as  "Son  of  the  Sun"  and  "Lord  of  the 
Two  Lands."  When  she  appeared  in  public  she  dressed  in  male  garb,  and 
wore  a  beard.40 

She  had  a  right  to  determine  her  own  sex,  for  she  became  one  of  the 
most  successful  and  beneficent  of  Egypt's  many  rulers.  She  maintained 
internal  order  without  undue  tyranny,  and  external  peace  without  loss. 
She  organized  a  great  expedition  to  Punt  (presumably  the  eastern  coast  of 
Africa),  giving  new  markets  to  her  merchants  and  new  delicacies  to  her 
people.  She  helped  to  beautify  Karnak,  raised  there  two  majestic  obelisks, 


built  at  Der-el-Bahri  the  stately  temple  which  her  father  had  designed, 
and  repaired  some  of  the  damage  that  had  been  done  to  older  temples  by 
the  Hyksos  kings.  "I  have  restored  that  which  was  in  ruins,"  one  of  her 
proud  inscriptions  tells  us;  "I  have  raised  up  that  which  was  unfinished 
since  the  Asiatics  were  in  the  midst  of  the  Northland,  overthrowing  that 
which  had  been  made."41  Finally  she  built  for  herself  a  secret  and  ornate 
tomb  among  the  sand-swept  mountains  on  the  western  side  of  the  Nile, 
in  what  came  to  be  called  "The  Valley  of  the  Kings'  Tombs";  her  succes- 
sors followed  her  example,  until  some  sixty  royal  sepulchres  had  been  cut 
into  the  hills,  and  the  city  of  the  dead  began  to  rival  living  Thebes  in 

'( population.  The  "West  End"  in  Egyptian  cities  was  the  abode  of  dead 

j  aristocrats;  to  "go  west"  meant  to  die. 

For  twenty-two  years  the  Queen  ruled  in  wisdom  and  peace;  Thutmose 
III  followed  with  a  reign  of  many  wars.  Syria  took  advantage  of  Hatshep- 
sut's  death  to  revolt;  it  did  not  seem  likely  to  the  Syrians  that  Thutmose, 
a  lad  of  twenty-two,  would  be  able  to  maintain  the  empire  created  by  his 
father.  But  Thutmose  set  off  in  the  very  year  of  his  accession,  marched 
his  army  through  Kantara  and  Gaza  at  twenty  miles  a  day,  and  confronted 
the  rebel  forces  at  Har-Mcgiddo  (i.e.,  Mt.  Megiddo),  a  little  town  so 
strategically  placed  between  the  rival  Lebanon  ranges  on  the  road  from 
Egypt  to  the  Euphrates  that  it  has  been  the  Ar-mageddon  of  countless  wars 
from  that  day  to  General  Allenby's.  In  the  same  pass  where  in  1918  the 
British  defeated  the  Turks,  Thutmose  III,  3397  years  before,  defeated  the 
Syrians  and  their  allies.  Then  Thutmose  marched  victorious  through 
western  Asia,  subduing,  taxing  and  levying  tribute,  and  returned  to  Thebes 
in  triumph  six  months  after  his  departure.*4* 

This  was  the  first  of  fifteen  campaigns  in  which  the  irresistible  Thutmose 
made  Egypt  master  of  the  Mediterranean  world.  Not  only  did  he  conquer, 
but  he  organized;  everywhere  he  left  doughty  garrisons  and  capable  gov- 
ernors. The  first  man  in  known  history  to  recognize  the  importance  of  sea 
power,  he  built  a  fleet  that  kept  the  Near  East  effectively  in  leash.  The 
spoils  that  he  seized  became  the  foundation  of  Egyptian  art  in  the  period 
of  the  Empire;  the  tribute  that  he  drained  from  Syria  gave  his  people  an 
epicurean  ease,  and  created  a  new  class  of  artists  who  filled  all  Egypt  with 

*  Allenby  took  twice  as  long  to  accomplish  a  similar  result;  Napoleon,  attempting  it  at 
Acre,  failed. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  155 

precious  things.  We  may  vaguely  estimate  the  wealth  of  the  new  imperial 
government  when  we  learn  that  on  one  occasion  the  treasury  was  able  to 
measure  out  nine  thousand  pounds  of  gold  and  silver  alloy.48  Trade  flour- 
ished in  Thebes  as  never  before;  the  temples  groaned  with  offerings;  and 
at  Karnak  the  lordly  Promenade  and  Festival  Hall  rose  to  the  greater  glory 
of  god  and  king.  Then  the  King  retired  from  the  battlefield,  designed 
exquisite  vases,  and  gave  himself  to  internal  administration.  His  vizier  or 
prime  minister  said  of  him,  as  tired  secretaries  were  to  say  of  Napoleon: 
"Lo,  His  Majesty  was  one  who  knew  what  happened;  there  was  nothing 
of  which  he  was  ignorant;  he  was  the  god  of  knowledge  in  everything; 
there  was  no  matter  that  he  did  not  carry  out."43*  He  passed  away  after 
a  rule  of  thirty-two  (some  say  fifty-four)  years,  having  made  Egyptian 
leadership  in  the  Mediterranean  world  complete. 

After  him  another  conqueror,  Amenhotep  II,  subdued  again  certain 
idolaters  of  liberty  in  Syria,  and  returned  to  Thebes  with  seven  captive 
kings,  still  alive,  hanging  head  downward  from  the  prow  of  the  imperial 
galley;  six  of  them  he  sacrificed  to  Amon  with  his  own  hand.4*  Then  an- 
other Thutmose,  who  does  not  count;  and  in  1412  Amenhotep  HI  began 
a  long  reign  in  which  the  accumulated  wealth  of  a  century  of  mastery 
brought  Egypt  to  the  acme  of  her  splendor.  A  fine  bust  in  the  British 
Museum  shows  him  as  a  man  at  once  of  refinement  and  of  strength,  able 
to  hold  firmly  together  the  empire  bequeathed  to  him,  and  yet  living  in 
an  atmosphere  of  comfort  and  elegance  that  might  have  been  envied  by 
Petronius  or  the  Medici.  Only  the  exhuming  of  Tutenkhamon's  relics 
could  make  us  credit  the  traditions  and  records  of  Amenhotep's  riches 
and  luxury.  In  his  reign  Thebes  was  as  majestic  as  any  city  in  history. 
Her  streets  crowded  with  merchants,  her  markets  filled  with  the  goods  of 
the  world,  her  buildings  "surpassing  in  magnificence  all  those  of  ancient  or 
modern  capitals,"415  her  imposing  palaces  receiving  tribute  from  an  endless 
chain  of  vassal  states,  her  massive  temples  "enriched  all  over  with  gold"46 
and  adorned  with  ever)"  art,  her  spacious  villas  and  costly  chateaux,  her 
shaded  promenades  and  artificial  lakes  providing  the  scene  for  sumptuous 
displays  of  fashion  that  anticipated  Imperial  Rome47— such  was  Egypt's 
capital  in  the  days  of  her  glory,  in  the  reign  before  her  fall. 



1.  Agriculture 

Behind  these  kings  and  queens  were  pawns;  behind  these  temples,  pal- 
aces and  pyramids  were  the  workers  of  the  cities  and  the  peasants  of  the 
fields.*  Herodotus  describes  them  optimistically  as  he  found  them  about 
450  B.C. 

They  gather  in  the  fruits  of  the  earth  with  less  labor  than  any 
other  people,  ...  for  they  have  not  the  toil  of  breaking  up  the 
furrow  with  the  plough,  nor  of  hoeing,  nor  of  any  other  work 
which  all  other  men  must  labor  at  to  obtain  a  crop  of  corn;  but 
when  the  river  has  come  of  its  own  accord  and  irrigated  their  fields, 
and  having  irrigated  them  has  subsided,  then  each  man  sows  his  own 
land  and  turns  his  swine  into  it;  and  when  the  seed  has  been  trod- 
den into  it  by  the  swine  he  waits  for  harvest  time;  then  ...  he 
gathers  it  in.48 

As  the  swine  trod  in  the  seed,  so  apes  were  tamed  and  taught  to  pluck 
fruit  from  the  trees."0  And  the  same  Nile  that  irrigated  the  fields  deposited 
upon  them,  in  its  inundation,  thousands  of  fish  in  shallow  pools;  even  the 
same  net  with  which  the  peasant  fished  during  the  day  was  used  around 
his  head  at  night  as  a  double  protection  against  mosquitoes."  Neverthe- 
less it  was  not  he  who  profited  by  the  bounty  of  the  river.  Every  acre  of 
the  soil  belonged  to  the  Pharaoh,  and  other  men  could  use  it  only  by  his  kind 
indulgence;  every  tiller  of  the  earth  had  to  pay  him  an  annual  tax  of  ten81 
or  twenty"  per  cent  in  kind.  Large  tracts  were  owned  by  the  feudal 
barons  or  other  wealthy  men;  the  size  of  some  of  these  estates  may  be 
judged  from  the  circumstance  that  one  of  them  had  fifteen  hundred  cows.54 
Cereals,  fish  and  meat  were  the  chief  items  of  diet.  One  fragment  tells  the 
school-boy  what  he  is  permitted  to  eat;  it  includes  thirty-three  forms  of 
flesh,  forty-eight  baked  meats,  and  twenty-four  varieties  of  drink.85  The 
rich  washed  down  their  meals  with  wine,  the  poor  with  barley  beer." 

The  lot  of  the  peasant  was  hard.  The  "free"  farmer  was  subject  only 
to  the  middleman  and  the  tax-collector,  who  dealt  with  him  on  the  most 
time-honored  of  economic  principles,  taking  "all  that  the  traffic  would 

*  The  population  of  Egypt  in  the  fourth  century  before  Christ  is  estimated  at  some 
[  7,000,000  souls.48 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  157 

bear"  out  of  the  produce  of  the  land.  Here  is  how  a  complacent  contempo- 
rary scribe  conceived  the  life  of  the  men  who  fed  ancient  Egypt: 

Dost  thou  not  recall  the  picture  of  the  farmer  when  the  tenth 
of  his  grain  is  levied?  Worms  have  destroyed  half  the  wheat,  and 
the  hippopotami  have  eaten  the  rest;  there  are  swarms  of  rats  in  the 
fields,  the  grasshoppers  alight  there,  the  cattle  devour,  the  little  birds 
pilfer;  and  if  the  farmer  loses  sight  for  an  instant  of  what  remains 
on  the  ground,  it  is  carried  off  by  robbers;  moreover,  the  thongs 
which  bind  the  iron  and  the  hoe  are  worn  out,  and  the  team  has  died 
at  the  plough.  It  is  then  that  the  scribe  steps  out  of  the  boat  at  the 
landing-place  to  levy  the  tithe,  and  there  come  the  Keepers  of  the 
Doors  of  the  (King's)  Granary  with  cudgels,  and  Negroes  with 
ribs  of  palm-leaves,  crying,  "Come  now,  come!"  There  is  none,  and 
they  throw  the  cultivator  full  length  upon  the  ground,  bind  him, 
drag  him  to  the  canal,  and  fling  him  in  head  first;  his  wife  is  bound 
with  him,  his  children  are  put  into  chains.  The  neighbors  in  the 
meantime  leave  him  and  fly  to  save  their  grain." 

It  is  a  characteristic  bit  of  literary  exaggeration;  but  the  author  might 
have  added  that  the  peasant  was  subject  at  any  time  to  the  corvee,  doing 
forced  labor  for  the  King,  dredging  the  canals,  building  roads,  tilling  the 
royal  lands,  or  dragging  great  stones  and  obelisks  for  pyramids,  temples 
and  palaces.  Probably  a  majority  of  the  laborers  in  the  field  were  mod- 
erately content,  accepting  their  poverty  patiently.  Many  of  them  were 
slaves,  captured  in  the  wars  or  bonded  for  debt;  sometimes  slave-raids  were 
organized,  and  women  and  children  from  abroad  were  sold  to  the  highest 
bidder  at  home.  An  old  relief  in  the  Leyden  Museum  pictures  a  long 
procession  of  Asiatic  captives  passing  gloomily  into  the  land  of  bondage: 
one  sees  them  still  alive  on  that  vivid  stone,  their  hands  tied  behind  their 
backs  or  their  heads,  or  thrust  through  rude  handcuffs  of  wood;  their 
faces  empty  with  the  apathy  that  has  known  the  last  despair. 

2.  Industry 

Miners  —  Manufactures  —  Workers  —  Engineers  —  Transport-- 
Postal service—Commerce  and  finance—Scribes 

Slowly,  as  the  peasants  toiled,  an  economic  surplus  grew,  and  food  was 
laid  aside  for  workers  in  industry  and  trade.  Having  no  minerals,  Egypt 


sought  them  in  Arabia  and  Nubia.  The  great  distances  offered  no  tempta- 
tion to  private  initiative,  and  for  many  centuries  mining  was  a  government 
monopoly."  Copper  was  mined  in  small  quantities,"*  iron  was  imported 
from  the  Hittites,  gold  mines  were  found  along  the  eastern  coast,  in  Nubia, 
and  in  every  vassal  treasury.  Diodorus  Siculus  (56  B.C.)  describes  Egyptian 
miners  following  with  lamp  and  pick  the  veins  of  gold  in  the  earth,  chil- 
dren carrying  up  the  heavy  ore,  stone  mortars  pounding  it  to  bits,  old  men 
and  women  washing  the  dirt  away.  We  cannot  tell  to  what  extent 
nationalistic  exaggeration  distorts  the  famous  passage: 

The  kings  of  Egypt  collect  condemned  prisoners,  prisoners  of 
war  and  others  who,  beset  by  false  accusations,  have  been  in  a  fit 
of  anger  thrown  into  prison.  These— sometimes  alone,  sometimes 
with  their  entire  family—they  send  to  the  gold  mines,  partly  to 
exact  a  just  vengeance  for  crimes  committed  by  the  condemned, 
partly  to  secure  for  themselves  a  big  revenue  through  their  toil. 
...  As  these  workers  can  take  no  care  of  their  bodies,  and  have 
not  even  a  garment  to  hide  their  nakedness,  there  is  no  one  who, 
seeing  these  luckless  people,  would  not  pity  them  because  of  the 
excess  of  their  misery,  for  there  is  no  forgiveness  or  relaxation  at 
all  for  the  sick,  or  the  maimed,  or  the  old,  or  for  woman's  weakness; 
but  all  with  blows  are  compelled  to  stick  to  their  labor  until,  worn 
out,  they  die  in  their  servitude.  Thus  the  poor  wretches  even  ac- 
count the  future  more  dreadful  than  the  present  because  of  the 
excess  of  their  punishment,  and  look  to  death  as  more  desirable 
than  life.60 

In  its  earliest  dynasties  Egypt  learned  the  art  of  fusing  copper  with 
tin  to  make  bronze:  first,  bronze  weapons— swords,  helmets  and  shields; 
then  bronze  tools— wheels,  rollers,  levers,  pulleys,  windlasses,  wedges, 
lathes,  screws,  drills  that  bored  the  toughest  diorite  stone,  saws  that  cut 
the  massive  slabs  of  the  sarcophagi.  Egyptian  workers  made  brick,  cement 
and  plaster  of  Paris;  they  glazed  pottery,  blew  glass,  and  glorified  both 
with  color.  They  were  masters  in  the  carving  of  wood;  they  made  every- 
thing from  boats  and  carriages,  chairs  and  beds,  to  handsome  coffins  that 
almost  invited  men  to  die.  Out  of  animal  skins  they  made  clothing, 
quivers,  shields  and  seats;  all  the  arts  of  the  tanner  are  pictured  on  the  walls 
of  the  tombs;  and  the  curved  knives  represented  there  in  the  tanner's  hand 
are  used  by  cobblers  to  this  day.81  From  the  papyrus  plant  Egyptian 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  1 59 

artisans  made  ropes,  mats,  sandals  and  paper.  Other  workmen  developed 
the  arts  of  enameling  and  varnishing,  and  applied  chemistry  to  industry. 
Still  others  wove  tissues  of  the  subtlest  weave  in  the  history  of  the  textile 
art;  specimens  of  linen  woven  four  thousand  years  ago  show  today,  despite 
time's  corrosion,  "a  weave  so  fine  that  it  requires  a  magnifying  glass  to  dis- 
tinguish it  from  silk;  the  best  work  of  the  modern  machine-loom  is  coarse 
in  comparison  with  this  fabric  of  the  ancient  Egyptian  hand-loom.""  "If," < 
says  Peschel,  "we  compare  the  technical  inventory  of  the  Egyptians  with 
our  own,  it  is  evident  that  before  the  invention  of  the  steam-engine  we 
scarcely  excelled  them  in  anything."8* 

The  workers  were  mostly  freemen,  partly  slaves.  In  general  every 
trade  was  a  caste,  as  in  modern  India,  and  sons  were  expected  to  follow 
and  take  over  the  occupations  of  their  fathers.84*  The  great  wars  brought 
in  thousands  of  captives,  making  possible  the  large  estates  and  the  triumphs 
of  engineering.  Ramcses  HI  presented  1 13,000  slaves  to  the  temples  during 
the  course  of  his  reign.80  The  free  artisans  were  usually  organized  for 
the  specific  undertaking  by  a  "chief  workman"  or  overseer,  who  sold  their 
labor  as  a  group  and  paid  them  individually.  A  chalk  tablet  in  the  British 
Museum  contains  a  chief  workman's  record  of  forty-three  workers,  listing 
their  absences  and  their  causes— "ill,"  or  "sacrificing  to  the  the  god,"  or  just 
plain  "lazy."  Strikes  were  frequent.  Once,  their  pay  being  long  overdue, 
the  workmen  besieged  the  overseer  and  threatened  him.  "We  have  been 
driven  here  by  hunger  and  thirst,"  they  told  him;  "we  have  no  clothes,  we 
have  no  oil,  we  have  no  food.  Write  to  our  lord  the  Pharaoh  on  the  sub- 
ject, and  write  to  the  governor"  (of  the  nome)  "who  is  over  us,  that  they 
may  give  us  something  for  our  sustenance.""7  A  Greek  tradition  reports  a 
great  revolt  in  Egypt,  in  which  the  slaves  captured  a  province,  and  held  it 
so  long  that  time,  which  sanctions  everything,  gave  them  legal  ownership 
of  it;  but  of  this  revolt  there  is  no  record  in  Egyptian  inscriptions.88  It  is 
surprising  that  a  civilization  so  ruthless  in  its  exploitation  of  labor  should 
have  known— or  recorded—so  few  revolutions. 

Egyptian  engineering  was  superior  to  anything  known  to  the  Greeks  or 
Romans,  or  to  Europe  before  the  Industrial  Revolution;  only  our  time  has 
excelled  it,  and  we  may  be  mistaken.  Senusret  III,  for  example,  builtf  a 
wall  twenty-seven  miles  long  to  gather  into  Lake  Moeris  the  waters  of 

*  "If  any  artisan,"  adds  Diodorus,  "takes  part  in  public  affairs  he  is  severely  beaten."68 
t  This  word,  when  used  in  reference  to  rulers,  must  always  be  understood  as  a  euphemism. 


the  Fayum  basin,  thereby  reclaiming  25,000  acres  of  marsh  land  for  cul- 
tivation, and  providing  a  vast  reservoir  for  irrigation.*  Great  canals  were 
constructed,  some  from  the  Nile  to  the  Red  Sea;  the  caisson  was  used  for 
digging,10  and  obelisks  weighing  a  thousand  tons  were  transported  over 
great  distances.  If  we  may  credit  Herodotus,  or  judge  from  later  under- 
takings of  the  same  kind  represented  in  the  reliefs  of  the  Eighteenth 
Dynasty,  these  immense  stones  were  drawn  on  greased  beams  by  thousands 
of  slaves,  and  raised  to  the  desired  level  on  inclined  approaches  beginning 
far  away.71  Machinery  was  rare  because  muscle  was  cheap.  See,  in  one 
relief,  eight  hundred  rowers  in  twenty-seven  boats  drawing  a  barge  laden 
with  two  obelisks;78  this  is  the  Eden  to  which  our  romantic  machine- 
wreckers  would  return.  Ships  a  hundred  feet  long  by  half  a  hundred 
feet  wide  plied  the  Nile  and  the  Red  Sea,  and  finally  sailed  the  Mediter- 
ranean. On  land  goods  were  transported  by  human  muscle,  later  by 
donkeys,  later  by  the  horse,  which  probably  the  Hyksos  brought  to  Egypt; 
the  camel  did  not  appear  till  Ptolemaic  days.73  The  poor  man  walked,  or 
paddled  his  simple  boat;  the  rich  man  rode  in  sedan-chairs  carried  by 
slaves,  or  later  in  chariots  clumsily  made  with  the  weight  placed  entirely 
in  front  of  the  axle.74 

There  was  a  regular  postal  service;  an  ancient  papyrus  says,  "Write  to 
me  by  the  letter-carrier."76  Communication,  however,  was  difficult;  roads 
were  few  and  bad,  except  for  the  military  highwa yAntrough  Gaza  to 
the  Euphrates;78  and  the  serpentine  form  of  the  Nile,  which  was  the  main 
highroad  of  Egypt,  doubled  the  distance  from  town  to  town.  Trade  was 
comparatively  primitive;  most  of  it  was  by  barter  in  village  bazaars.  For- 
eign commerce  grew  slowly,  restricted  severely  by  the  most  up-to-date 
tariff  walls;  the  various  kingdoms  of  the  Near  East  believed  strongly  in  the 
"protective  principle,"  for  customs  dues  were  a  mainstay  of  their  royal 
treasuries.  Nevertheless  Egypt  grew  rich  by  importing  raw  materials  and 
exporting  finished  products;  Syrian,  Cretan  and  Cypriote  merchants 
crowded  the  markets  of  Egypt,  and  Phoenician  galleys  sailed  up  the  Nile 
to  the  busy  wharves  of  Thebes.77 

Coinage  had  not  yet  developed;  payments,  even  of  the  highest  salaries, 
were  made  in  goods— corn,  bread,  yeast,  beer,  etc.  Taxes  were  collected 
in  kind,  and  the  Pharaoh's  treasuries  were  not  a  mint  of  money,  but  store- 
houses of  a  thousand  products  from  the  fields  and  shops.  After  the  influx 
of  precious  metals  that  followed  the  conquests  of  Thutmose  HI,  merchants 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  l6l 

began  to  pay  for  goods  with  rings  or  ingots  of  gold,  measured  by  weight 
at  every  transaction;  but  no  coins  of  definite  value  guaranteed  by  the  state 
arose  to  facilitate  exchange.  Credit,  however,  was  highly  developed; 
written  transfers  frequently  took  the  place  of  barter  or  payment;  scribes 
were  busy  everywhere  accelerating  business  with  legal  documents  of  ex- 
change, accounting  and  finance. 

Every  visitor  to  the  Louvre  has  seen  the  statue  of  the  Egyptian  scribe, 
squatting  on  his  haunches,  almost  completely  nude,  dressed  with  a  pen 
behind  the  car  as  reserve  for  the  one  he  holds  in  his  hand.  He  keeps  record 
of  work  done  and  goods  paid,  of  prices  and  costs,  of  profits  and  loss;  he 
counts  the  cattle  as  they  move  to  the  slaughter,  or  corn  as  it  is  measured 
out  in  sale;  he  draws  up  contracts  and  wills,  and  makes  out  his  master's 
income-tax;  verily  there  is  nothing  new  under  the  sun.  He  is  sedulously 
attentive  and  mechanically  industrious;  he  has  just  enough  intelligence 
not  to  be  dangerous.  His  life  is  monotonous,  but  he  consoles  himself  by 
writing  essays  on  the  hardships  of  the  manual  worker's  existence,  and 
the  princely  dignity  of  those  whose  food  is  paper  and  whose  blood  is  ink. 

3.  Government 
The  bureaucrats—Law— The  vizier—The  pharaoh 

With  these  scribes  as  a  clerical  bureaucracy  the  Pharaoh  and  the  pro- 
vincial nobles  maintained  law  and  order  in  the  state.  Ancient  slabs  show 
such  clerks  taking  the  census,  and  examining  income-tax  returns.  Through 
Nilometcrs  that  measured  the  rise  of  the  river,  the  scribe-officials  forecast 
the  size  of  the  harvest,  and  estimated  the  government's  future  revenue; 
they  allotted  appropriations  in  advance  to  governmental  departments, 
supervised  industry  and  trade,  and  in  some  measure  achieved,  almost  at 
the  outset  of  history,  a  planned  economy  regulated  by  the  state.78 

Civil  and  criminal  legislation  were  highly  developed,  and  already  in  the 
Fifth  Dynasty  the  law  of  private  property  and  bequest  was  intricate  and 
precise.79  As  in  our  own  days,  there  was  absolute  equality  before  the 
law— whenever  the  contesting  parties  had  equal  resources  and  influence. 
The  oldest  legal  document  in  the  world  is  a  brief,  in  the  British  Museum, 
presenting  to  the  court  a  complex  case  in  inheritance.  Judges  required 
cases  to  be  pled  and  answered,  reargued  and  rebutted,  not  in  oratory  but 
in  writing—which  compares  favorably  with  our  windy  litigation.  Perjury 


was  punished  with  death.80  There  were  regular  courts,  rising  from  local 
judgment-seats  in  the  nomes  to  supreme  courts  at  Memphis,  Thebes,  or 
Heliopolis.81  Torture  was  used  occasionally  as  a  midwife  to  truth;88  beating 
with  a  rod  was  a  frequent  punishment,  mutilation  by  cutting  off  nose  or 
ears,  hand  or  tongue,  was  sometimes  resorted  to,83  or  exile  to  the  mines, 
or  death  by  strangling,  empaling,  beheading,  or  burning  at  the  stake;  the 
extreme  penalty  was  to  be  embalmed  alive,  to  be  eaten  slowly  by  an  in- 
escapable coating  of  corrosive  natron.84  Criminals  of  high  rank  were  saved 
the  shame  of  public  execution  by  being  permitted  to  kill  themselves,  as  in 
samurai  Japan.88  We  find  no  signs  of  any  system  of  police;  even  the  stand- 
ing army— always  small  because  of  Egypt's  protected  isolation  between 
deserts  and  seas— was  seldom  used  for  internal  discipline.  Security  of  life 
and  property,  and  the  continuity  of  law  and  government,  rested  almost 
entirely  on  the  prestige  of  the  Pharaoh,  maintained  by  the  schools  and  the 
church.  No  other  nation  except  China  has  ever  dared  to  depend  so 
largely  upon  psychological  discipline. 

It  was  a  well-organized  government,  with  a  better  record  of  duration 
than  any  other  in  history.  At  the  head  of  the  administration  was  the 
Vizier,  who  served  at  once  as  prune  minister,  chief  justice,  and  head  of 
the  treasury;  he  was  the  court  of  last  resort  under  the  Pharaoh  himself. 
A  tomb  relief  shows  us  the  Vizier  leaving  his  house  early  in  the  morning 
to  hear  the  petitions  of  the  poor,  "to  hear,"  as  the  inscription  reads,  "what 
the  people  say  in  their  demands,  and  to  make  no  distinction  between  small 
and  great."80  A  remarkable  papyrus  roll,  which  comes  down  to  us  from 
the  days  of  the  Empire,  purports  to  be  the  form  of  address  (perhaps  it  is 
but  a  literary  invention)  with  which  the  Pharaoh  installed  a  new  Vizier: 

Look  to  the  office  of  the  Vizier;  be  watchful  over  all  that  is  done 
therein.  Behold,  it  is  the  established  support  of  the  whole  land.  .  .  . 
The  Vizierate  is  not  sweet;  it  is  bitter.  .  .  .  Behold,  it  is  not  to 
show  respect-of-pcrsons  to  princes  and  councillors;  it  is  not  to  make 
for  himself  slaves  of  any  people.  .  .  .  Behold,  when  a  petitioner 
comes  from  Upper  or  Lower  Egypt  ...  see  thou  to  it  that  every- 
thing is  done  in  accordance  with  law,  that  everything  is  done  ac- 
cording to  the  custom  thereof,  (giving)  to  (every  man)  his  right. 
...  It  is  an  abomination  of  the  god  to  show  partiality.  .  .  .  Look 
upon  him  who  is  known  to  thee  like  him  who  is  unknown  to  thce; 
and  him  who  is  near  the  King  like  him  who  is  far  from  (his  House). 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  163 

Behold,  a  prince  who  does  this,  he  shall  endure  here  in  this  place. 
.  .  .  The  dread  of  a  prince  is  that  he  does  justice.  .  .  .  (Behold 
the  regulation)  that  is  laid  upon  thee.*7 

The  Pharaoh  himself  was  the  supreme  court;  any  case  might  under 
certain  circumstances  be  brought  to  him,  if  the  plaintiff  was  careless  of 
expense.  Ancient  carvings  show  us  the  "Great  House"  from  which  he 
ruled,  and  in  which  the  offices  of  the  government  were  gathered;  from  this 
Great  House,  which  the  Egyptians  called  Pero  and  which  the  Jews  trans- 
lated Pharaoh,  came  the  title  of  the  emperor.  Here  he  carried  on  an 
arduous  routine  of  executive  work,  sometimes  with  a  schedule  as  rigorous 
as  Chandragupta's,  Louis  XIV's  or  Napoleon's.88  When  he  traveled  the 
nobles  met  him  at  the  feudal  frontiers,  escorted  and  entertained  him,  and 
gave  him  presents  proportionate  to  their  expectations;  one  lord,  says  a 
proud  inscription,  gave  to  Amenhotep  II  "carriages  of  silver  and  gold, 
statues  of  ivory  and  ebony  .  .  .  jewels,  weapons,  and  works  of  art,"  680 
shields,  140  bronze  daggers,  and  many  vases  of  precious  metal.8"  The 
Pharaoh  reciprocated  by  taking  one  of  the  baron's  sons  to  live  with  him 
at  court— a  subtle  way  of  exacting  a  hostage  of  fidelity.  The  oldest  of 
the  courtiers  constituted  a  Council  of  Elders  called  Saru,  or  The  Great 
Ones,  who  served  as  an  advisory  cabinet  to  the  king.*0  Such  counsel  was 
in  a  sense  superfluous,  for  the  Pharaoh,  with  the  help  of  the  priests,  assumed 
divine  descent,  powers  and  wisdom;  this  alliance  with  the  gods  was  the 
secret  of  his  prestige.  Consequently  he  was  greeted  with  forms  of  address 
always  flattering,  sometimes  astonishing,  as  when,  in  The  Story  of  Sinuhe, 
a  good  citizen  hails  him:  "O  long-living  King,  may  the  Golden  One" 
(Hathor  the  goddess)  "give  life  to  thy  nose."81 

As  became  so  godlike  a  person,  the  Pharaoh  was  waited  upon  by  a  vari- 
ety of  aides,  including  generals,  launderers,  bleachers,  guardians  of  the 
imperial  wardrobe,  and  other  men  of  high  degree.  Twenty  officials  col- 
laborated to  take  care  of  his  toilet:  barbers  who  were  permitted  only  to 
shave  him  and  cut  his  hair,  hairdressers  who  adjusted  the  royal  cowl  and 
diadem  to  his  head,  manicurists  who  cut  and  polished  his  nails,  perfumers 
who  deodorized  his  body,  blackened  his  eyelids  with  kohl,  and  reddened 
his  cheeks  and  lips  with  rouge.01  One  tomb  inscription  describes  its  occu- 
pant as  "Overseer  of  the  Cosmetic  Box,  Overseer  of  the  Cosmetic  Pencil, 
Sandal-Bearer  to  the  King,  doing  in  the  matter  of  the  King's  sandals  to  the 
satisfaction  of  his  Law."06  So  pampered,  he  tended  to  degenerate,  and  some- 


times  brightened  his  boredom  by  manning  the  imperial  barge  with  young 
women  clad  only  in  network  of  a  large  mesh.  The  luxury  of  Amenhotep 
III  prepared  for  the  debacle  of  Ikhnaton. 

4.  Morals 

Royal  incest— The  harem— Marriage— The  position  of  woman— 
The  matriarchate  in  Egypt— Sexual  morality 

The  government  of  the  Pharaohs  resembled  that  of  Napoleon,  even  to 
the  incest.  Very  often  the  king  married  his  own  sister— occasionally  his 
own  daughter— to  preserve  the  purity  of  the  royal  blood.  It  is  difficult  to 
say  whether  this  weakened  the  stock.  Certainly  Egypt  did  not  think  so, 
after  several  thousand  years  of  experiment;  the  institution  of  sister-mar- 
riage spread  among  the  people,  and  as  late  as  the  second  century  after 
Christ  two-thirds  of  the  citizens  of  Arsinoe  were  found  to  be  practising  the 
custom.94  The  words  brother  and  sister,  in  Egyptian  poetry,  have  the  same 
significance  as  lover  and  beloved  among  ourselves.95  In  addition  to  his  sisters 
the  Pharaoh  had  an  abundant  harem,  recruited  not  only  from  captive 
women  but  from  the  daughters  of  the  nobles  and  the  gifts  of  foreign  po- 
tentates; so  Amenhotep  III  received  from  a  prince  of  Naharina  his  eldest 
daughter  and  three  hundred  select  maidens.98  Some  of  the  nobility  imi- 
tated this  tiresome  extravagance  on  a  small  scale,  adjusting  their  morals  to 
their  resources. 

For  the  most  part  the  common  people,  like  persons  of  moderate 
income  everywhere,  contented  themselves  with  monogamy.  Family  life  was 
apparently  as  well  ordered,  as  wholesome  in  moral  tone  and  influence,  as 
in  the  highest  civilizations  of  our  time.  Divorce  was  rare  until  the  decadent 
dynasties.  The  husband  could  dismiss  his  wife  without  compensation  if  he 
detected  her  in  adultery;  if  he  divorced  her  for  other  reasons  he  was  re- 
quired to  turn  over  to  her  a  substantial  share  of  the  family  property. 
The  fidelity  of  the  husband— so  far  as  we  can  fathom  such  arcana— was  as 
painstaking  as  in  any  later  culture,  and  the  position  of  woman  was  more 
advanced  than  in  most  countries  today.  "No  people,  ancient  or  modern," 
said  Max  Miiller,  "has  given  women  so  high  a  legal  status  as  did  the  in- 
habitants of  the  Nile  Valley."*7  The  monuments  picture  them  eating  and 
drinking  in  public,  going  about  their  affairs  in  the  streets  unattended 
and  unharmed,  and  freely  engaging  in  industry  and  trade.  Greek  travel- 

CHAP.  Vin)  EGYPT  165 

ers,  accustomed  to  confine  their  Xanthippes  narrowly,  were  amazed  at 
this  liberty;  they  jibed  at  the  henpecked  husbands  of  Egypt,  and  Diodorus 
Siculus,  perhaps  with  a  twinkle  in  his  eye,  reported  that  along  the  Nile 
obedience  of  the  husband  to  the  wife  was  required  in  the  marriage  bond  *— 
a  stipulation  not  necessary  in  America.  Women  held  and  bequeathed 
property  in  their  own  names;  one  of  the  most  ancient  documents  in  his- 
tory is  the  Third  Dynasty  will  in  which  the  lady  Neb-sent  transmits  her 
lands  to  her  children."  Hatshepsut  and  Cleopatra  rose  to  be  queens,  and 
ruled  and  ruined  like  kings. 

Sometimes  a  cynical  note  is  heard  in  the  literature.  One  ancient  moralist 
warns  his  readers: 

Beware  of  a  woman  from  abroad,  who  is  not  known  in  her  city. 
Look  not  upon  her  when  she  comes,  and  know  her  not.  She  is  like 
the  vortex  of  deep  waters,  whose  whirling  is  unfathomable.  The 
woman  whose  husband  is  far  away,  she  writes  to  thee  every  day.  If 
there  is  no  witness  with  her  she  arises  and  spreads  her  net.  Oh, 
deadly  crime  if  one  hearkens!100 

But  the  more  characteristically  Egyptian  tone  sounds  in  Ptah-hotep's 
instructions  to  his  son: 

If  thou  art  successful,  and  hast  furnished  thy  house,  and  lovest  the 
wife  of  thy  bosom,  then  fill  her  stomach  and  clothe  her  back.  .  .  . 
Make  glad  her  heart  during  the  time  thou  hast  her,  for  she  is  a  field 
profitable  to  its  owner.  ...  If  thou  oppose  her  it  will  mean  thy 

And  the  Boulak  Papyrus  admonishes  the  child  with  touching  wisdom: 

Thou  shah  never  forget  thy  mother. .  .  .  For  she  carried  thee  long 
beneath  her  breast  as  a  heavy  burden;  and  after  thy  months  were  ac- 
complished she  bore  thee.  Three  long  years  she  carried  thee  upon 
her  shoulder,  and  gave  thee  her  breast  to  thy  mouth.  She  nurtured 
thee,  and  took  no  offense  from  thy  uncleanliness.  And  when  thou 
didst  enter  school,  and  wast  instructed  in  the  writings,  daily  she 
stood  by  the  master  with  bread  and  beer  from  the  house.10* 

It  is  likely  that  this  high  status  of  woman  arose  from  the  mildly  matri- 
archal character  of  Egyptian  society.  Not  only  was  woman  full  mistress 


in  the  house,  but  all  estates  descended  in  the  female  line;  "even  in  late 
times,"  says  Petrie,  "the  husband  made  over  all  his  property  and  future 
earnings  to  his  wife  in  his  marriage  settlement."108  Men  married  their 
sisters  not  because  familiarity  had  bred  romance,  but  because  they  wished 
to  enjoy  the  family  inheritance,  which  passed  down  from  mother  to 
daughter,  and  they  did  not  care  to  see  this  wealth  give  aid  and  comfort  to 
strangers.104  The  powers  of  the  wife  underwent  a  slow  diminution  in  the 
course  of  time,  perhaps  through  contact  with  the  patriarchal  customs  of 
the  Hyksos,  and  through  the  transit  of  Egypt  from  agricultural  isolation 
and  peace  to  imperialism  and  war;  under  the  Ptolemies  the  influence  of  the 
Greeks  was  so  great  that  freedom  of  divorce,  claimed  in  earlier  times  by 
the  wife,  became  the  exclusive  privilege  of  the  husband.  Even  then,  how- 
ever, the  change  was  accepted  only  by  the  upper  classes;  the  Egyptian 
commoner  adhered  to  matriarchal  ways.105  Possibly  because  of  the  mas- 
tery of  woman  over  her  own  affairs,  infanticide  was  rare;  Diodorus, thought 
it  a  peculiarity  of  the  Egyptians  that  every  child  born  to  them  was  reared, 
and  tells  us  that  parents  guilty  of  infanticide  were  required  by  law  to  hold 
the  dead  child  in  their  arms  for  three  days  and  nights.100  Families  were 
large,  and  children  swarmed  in  both  hovels  and  palaces;  the  well-to-do 
were  hard  put  to  it  to  keep  count  of  their  offspring.107 

Even  in  courtship  the  woman  usually  took  the  initiative.  The  love 
poems  and  letters  that  have  come  down  to  us  are  generally  addressed  by 
the  lady  to  the  man;  she  begs  for  assignations,  she  presses  her  suit  directly, 
she  formally  proposes  marriage.108  "Oh  my  beautiful  friend,"  says  one 
letter,  "my  desire  is  to  become,  as  thy  wife,  the  mistress  of  all  thy  posses- 
sions."10* Hence  modesty,  as  distinct  from  fidelity,  was  not  prominent 
among  the  Egyptians;  they  spoke  of  sexual  affairs  with  a  directness  alien 
to  our  late  morality,  adorned  their  very  temples  with  pictures  and  bas- 
reliefs  of  startling  anatomical  candor,  and  supplied  their  dead  with  obscene 
literature  to  amuse  them  in  the  grave."0  Blood  ran  warm  along  the  Nile: 
girls  were  nubile  at  ten,  and  premarital  morals  were  free  and  easy;  one 
courtesan,  in  Ptolemaic  days,  was  reputed  to  have  built  a  pyramid  with  her 
savings;  even  sodomy  had  its  clientele.111  Dancing-girls,  in  the  manner  of 
Japan,  were  accepted  into  the  best  male  society  as  providers  of  enter- 
tainment and  physical  edification;  they  dressed  in  diaphanous  robes,  or 
contented  themselves  with  anklets,  bracelets  and  rings.113  Evidences  occur 
of  religious  prostitution  on  a  small  scale;  as  late  as  the  Roman  occupa- 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  1 67 

tion  the  most  beautiful  girl  among  the  noble  families  of  Thebes  was  chosen 
to  be  consecrated  to  Amon.  When  she  was  too  old  to  satisfy  the  god  she 
received  an  honorable  discharge,  married,  and  moved  in  the  highest 
circles."*  It  was  a  civilization  with  different  prejudices  from  our  own. 

5.  Manners 
Character— Games— Appearance— Cosmetics— Costume— Jewelry 

If  we  try  to  visualize  the  Egyptian  character  we  find  it  difficult  to  dis- 
tinguish between  the  ethics  of  the  literature  and  the  actual  practices  of  life. 
Very  frequently  noble  sentiments  occur;  a  poet,  for  example,  counsels  his 

Give  bread  to  him  who  has  no  field, 

And  create  for  thyself  a  good  name  for  ever  more;"1 

and  some  of  the  elders  give  very  laudable  advice  to  their  children.  A  papyrus 
in  the  British  Museum,  known  to  scholars  as  "The  Wisdom  of  Amenemope" 
(ca.  950  B.C.),  prepares  a  student  for  public  office  with  admonitions  that  prob- 
ably influenced  the  author  or  authors  of  the  "Proverbs  of  Solomon." 

Be  not  greedy  for  a  cubit  of  land, 

And  trespass  not  on  the  boundary  of  the  widow.  .  .  . 

Plough  the  fields  that  thou  mayest  find  thy  needs, 

And  receive  thy  bread  from  thine  own  threshing  floor. 

Better  is  a  bushel  which  God  giveth  to  thee 

Than  five  thousand  gained  by  transgression.  .  .  . 

Better  is  poverty  in  the  hand  of  God 

Than  riches  in  the  storehouse; 

And  better  are  loaves  when  the  heart  is  joyous 

Than  riches  in  unhappiness.  . .  ."" 

Such  pious  literature  did  not  prevent  the  normal  operation  of  human  greed. 
Plato  described  the  Athenians  as  loving  knowledge,  the  Egyptians  as  loving 
wealth;  perhaps  he  was  too  patriotic.  In  general  the  Egyptians  were  the 
Americans  of  antiquity:  enamored  of  size,  given  to  gigantic  engineering  and 
majestic  building,  industrious  and  accumulative,  practical  even  in  the  midst  of 
many  ultramundane  superstitions.  They  were  the  arch-conservatives  of  his- 
tory; the  more  they  changed,  the  more  they  remained  the  same;  through 
forty  centuries  their  artists  copied  the  old  conventions  religiously.  They  ap- 
pear to  us,  from  their  monuments,  to  have  been  a  matter-of-fact  people,  not 
given  to  non-theological  nonsense.  They  had  no  sentimental  regard  for 


human  life,  and  killed  with  the  clear  conscience  of  nature;  Egyptian  soldiers 
cut  off  the  right  hand,  or  the  phallus,  of  a  slain  enemy,  and  brought  it  to  the 
proper  scribe  that  it  might  be  put  into  the  record  to  their  credit.11"  In  the 
later  dynasties  the  people,  long  accustomed  to  internal  peace  and  to  none  but 
distant  wars,  lost  all  military  habits  and  qualities,  until  at  last  a  few  Roman 
soldiers  sufficed  to  master  all  Egypt.1" 

The  accident  that  we  know  them  chiefly  from  the  remains  in  their  tombs 
or  the  inscriptions  on  their  temples  has  misled  us  into  exaggerating  their 
solemnity.  We  perceive  from  some  of  their  sculptures  and  reliefs,  and  from 
their  burlesque  stories  of  the  gods,118  that  they  had  a  jolly  turn  for  humor. 
They  played  many  public  and  private  games,  such  as  checkers  and  dice;118  they 
gave  many  modern  toys  to  their  children,  like  marbles,  bouncing  balls,  ten- 
pins and  tops;  they  enjoyed  wrestling  contests,  boxing  matches  and  bull- 
fights.130 At  feasts  and  recreations  they  were  anointed  by  attendants,  were 
wreathed  with  flowers,  feted  with  wines,  and  presented  with  gifts. 

From  the  painting  and  the  statuary  we  picture  them  as  a  physically 
vigorous  people,  muscular,  broad-shouldered,  thin-waisted,  full-lipped,  and 
flat-footed  from  going  unshod.  The  upper  classes  are  represented  as 
fashionably  slender,  imperiously  tall,  with  oval  face,  sloping  forehead, 
regular  features,  a  long,  straight  nose,  and  magnificent  eyes.  Their  skin  was 
white  at  birth  (indicating  an  Asiatic  rather  than  an  African  origin),  but 
rapidly  darkened  under  the  Egyptian  sun;121  their  artists  idealized  them  in 
painting  the  men  red,  the  women  yellow;  perhaps  these  colors  were  merely 
cosmetic  styles.  The  man  of  the  people,  however,  is  pictured  as  short  and 
squat,  like  the  "Sheik-el-Belcd,"  formed  by  heavy  toil  and  an  unbalanced 
ration;  his  features  are  rough,  his  nose  blunt  and  wide;  he  is  intelligent  but 
coarse.  Perhaps,  as  in  so  many  other  instances,  the  people  and  their  rulers 
were  of  different  races:  the  rulers  of  Asiatic,  the  people  of  African,  deriva- 
tion. The  hair  was  dark,  sometimes  curly,  but  never  woolly.  Women 
bobbed  their  hair  in  the  most  modern  mode;  men  shaved  lips  and  chin, 
but  consoled  themselves  with  magnificent  wigs.  Often,  in  order  to  wear 
these  more  comfortably,  they  shaved  the  head;  even  the  queen  consort 
(e.g.,  Ikhnaton's  mother  Tiy)  cut  off  all  her  hair  to  wear  more  easily  the 
royal  wig  and  crown.  It  was  a  matter  of  rigid  etiquette  that  the  king 
should  have  the  biggest  wig.128 

According  to  their  means  they  repaired  the  handiwork  of  nature 
with  subtle  cosmetic  art.  Faces  were  rouged,  lips  were  painted,  nails  were 
colored,  hair  and  limbs  were  oiled;  even  in  the  sculptures  the  Egyptian 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  1 69 

women  have  painted  eyes.  Those  who  could  afford  it  had  seven  creams 
and  two  kinds  of  rouge  put  into  their  tombs  when  they  died.  The  re- 
mains abound  in  toilet  sets,  mirrors,  razors,  hair-curlers,  hair-pins,  combs, 
cosmetic  boxes,  dishes  and  spoons— made  of  wood,  ivory,  alabaster  or 
bronze,  and  designed  in  delightful  and  appropriate  forms.  Eye-paint  still 
survives  in  some  of  the  tubes.  The  kohl  that  women  use  today  for  paint- 
ing the  eyebrows  and  the  face  is  a  lineal  descendant  of  the  oil  used  by 
the  Egyptians;  it  has  come  down  to  us  through  the  Arabs,  whose  word  for 
it,  al-kohl,  has  given  us  our  word  alcohol.  Perfumes  of  all  sorts  were 
used  on  the  body  and  the  clothes,  and  homes  were  made  fragrant  with 
incense  and  myrrh.1* 

Their  clothing  ran  through  every  gradation  from  primitive  nudity  to 
the  gorgeous  dress  of  Empire  days.  Children  of  both  sexes  went  about, 
till  their  teens,  naked  except  for  ear-rings  and  necklaces;  the  girls,  however, 
showed  a  beseeming  modesty  by  wearing  a  string  of  beads  around  the 
middle."4  Servants  and  peasants  limited  their  everyday  wardrobe  to  a 
loin-cloth.  Under  the  Old  Kingdom  free  men  and  women  went  naked 
to  the  navel,  and  covered  themselves  from  waist  to  knees  with  a  short,  tight 
skirt  of  white  linen.125  Since  shame  is  a  child  of  custom  rather  than  of 
nature,  these  simple  garments  contented  the  conscience  as  completely  as 
Victorian  petticoats  and  corsets,  or  the  evening  dress  of  the  contemporary 
American  male;  "our  virtues  lie  in  the  interpretation  of  the  time."  Even 
the  priests,  in  the  first  dynasties,  wore  nothing  but  loin-cloths,  as  we  see 
from  the  statue  of  Ranofcr.130  When  wealth  increased,  clothing  increased; 
the  Middle  Kingdom  added  a  second  and  larger  skirt  over  the  first,  and 
the  Empire  added  a  covering  for  the  breast,  with  now  and  then  a  cape. 
Coachmen  and  grooms  took  on  formidable  costumes,  and  ran  through 
the  streets  in  full  livery  to  clear  a  way  for  the  chariots  of  their  masters. 
Women,  in  the  prosperous  dynasties,  abandoned  the  tight  skirt  for  a 
loose  robe  that  passed  over  the  shoulder  and  was  joined  in  a  clasp  under 
the  right  breast.  Flounces,  embroideries  and  a  thousand  frills  appeared, 
and  fashion  entered  like  a  serpent  to  disturb  the  paradise  of  primitive 

Both  sexes  loved  ornament,  and  covered  neck,  breast,  arms,  wrists  and 
ankles  with  jewelry.  As  the  nation  fattened  on  the  tribute  of  Asia  and 
the  commerce  of  the  Mediterranean  world,  jewelry  ceased  to  be  restricted 
to  the  aristocracy,  and  became  a  passion  with  all  classes.  Every  scribe  and 


merchant  had  his  seal  of  silver  or  gold;  every  man  had  a  ring,  every  woman 
had  an  ornamental  chain.  These  chains,  as  we  see  them  in  the  museums 
today,  are  of  infinite  variety:  some  of  them  two  to  three  inches,  some 
of  them  five  feet,  in  length;  some  thick  and  heavy,  some  "as  slight  and 
flexible  as  the  finest  Venetian  lace."188  About  the  time  of  the  Eighteenth 
Dynasty  ear-rings  became  de  rigueur;  every  one  had  to  have  the  ears 
pierced  for  them,  not  only  girls  and  women,  but  boys  and  men.128  Men  as 
well  as  women  decorated  their  persons  with  bracelets  and  rings,  pendants 
and  beads  of  costly  stone.  The  women  of  ancient  Egypt  could  learn  very 
little  from  us  in  the  matter  of  cosmetics  and  jewelry  if  they  were  rein- 
carnated among  us  today. 

6.  Letters 

Education—Schools  of  government— Paper  and  ink— Stages  in  the 
development  of  writing— Forms  of  Egyptian  writing 

The  priests  imparted  rudimentary  instruction  to  the  children  of  the 
well-to-do  in  schools  attached  to  the  temples,  as  in  the  Roman  Catholic 
parishes  of  our  age.180  One  high-priest,  who  was  what  we  should  term  Min- 
ister or  Secretary  of  Education,  calls  himself  "Chief  of  the  Royal  Stable 
of  Instruction."181  In  the  ruins  of  a  school  which  was  apparently  part  of 
the  Ramesseum  a  large  number  of  shells  has  been  found,  still  bearing 
the  lessons  of  the  ancient  pedagogue.  The  teacher's  function  was  to  pro- 
duce scribes  for  the  clerical  work  of  the  state.  To  stimulate  his  pupils  he 
wrote  eloquent  essays  on  the  advantages  of  education.  "Give  thy  heart 
to  learning,  and  love  her  like  a  mother,"  says  one  edifying  papyrus,  "for 
there  is  nothing  so  precious  as  learning."  "Behold,"  says  another,  "there  is 
no  profession  that  is  not  governed;  it  is  only  the  learned  man  who  rules 
himself."  It  is  a  misfortune  to  be  a  soldier,  writes  an  early  bookworm;  it 
is  a  weariness  to  till  the  earth;  the  only  happiness  is  "to  turn  the  heart  to 
books  during  the  daytime  and  to  read  during  the  night."1* 

Copy-books  survive  from  the  days  of  the  Empire  with  the  corrections 
of  the  masters  still  adorning  the  margins;  the  abundance  of  errors  would 
console  the  modern  schoolboy.1*  The  chief  method  of  instruction  was  the 
dictation  or  copying  of  texts,  which  were  written  upon  potsherds  or  lime- 
stone flakes.184  The  subjects  were  largely  commercial,  for  the  Egyptians 
were  the  first  and  greatest  utilitarians;  but  the  chief  topic  of  pedagogic 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  171 

discourse  was  virtue,  and  the  chief  problem,  as  ever,  was  discipline.  "Do 
not  spend  thy  time  in  wishing,  or  thou  wilt  come  to  a  bad  end,"  we  read 
in  one  of  the  copy-books.  "Let  thy  mouth  read  the  book  in  thy  hand; 
take  advice  from  those  who  know  more  than  thou  dost"— this  last  is  prob- 
ably one  of  the  oldest  phrases  in  any  language.  Discipline  was  vigorous, 
and  based  upon  the  simplest  principles.  "The  youth  has  a  back,"  says  a 
euphemistic  manuscript,  "and  attends  when  he  is  beaten,  ...  for  the  ears 
of  the  young  are  placed  on  the  back."  A  pupil  writes  to  his  former 
teacher:  "Thou  didst  beat  my  back,  and  thy  instructions  went  into  my 
ear."  That  this  animal-training  did  not  always  succeed  appears  from  a 
papyrus  in  which  a  teacher  laments  that  his  former  pupils  love  books 
much  less  than  beer.1* 

Nevertheless,  a  large  number  of  the  temple  students  were  graduated 
from  the  hands  of  the  priest  to  high  schools  attached  to  the  offices  of  the 
state  treasury.  There,  in  the  first  known  School  of  Government,  the  young 
scribes  were  instructed  in  public  administration.  On  graduating  they  were 
apprenticed  to  officials,  who  taught  them  through  plenty  of  work.  Per- 
haps it  was  a  better  way  of  securing  and  training  public  servants  than 
our  modern  selection  of  them  by  popularity  and  subserviency,  and  the 
noise  of  the  hustings.  In  this  manner  Egypt  and  Babylonia  developed, 
more  or  less  simultaneously,  the  earliest  school-systems  in  history;130  not  till 
the  nineteenth  century  of  our  era  was  the  public  instruction  of  the  young 
to  be  so  well  organized  again. 

In  the  higher  grades  the  student  was  allowed  to  use  paper— one  of  the 
main  items  of  Egyptian  trade,  and  one  of  the  permanent  gifts  of  Egypt 
to  the  world.  The  stem  of  the  papyrus  plant  was  cut  into  strips,  other 
strips  were  placed  crosswise  upon  these,  the  sheet  was  pressed,  and 
paper,  the  very  stuff  (and  nonsense)  of  civilization,  was  made.187  How  well 
they  made  it  may  be  judged  from  the  fact  that  manuscripts  written  by 
them  five  thousand  years  ago  are  still  intact  and  legible.  Sheets  were  com- 
bined into  books  by  gumming  the  right  edge  of  one  sheet  to  the  left  edge 
of  the  next;  in  this  way  rolls  were  produced  which  were  sometimes  forty 
yards  in  length;  they  were  seldom  longer,  for  there  were  no  verbose  his- 
torians in  Egypt.  Ink,  black  and  indestructible,  was  made  by  mixing 
water  with  soot  and  vegetable  gums  on  a  wooden  palette;  the  pen  was  a 
simple  reed,  fashioned  at  the  tip  into  a  tiny  brush.1* 

With  these  modern  instruments  the  Egyptians  wrote  the  most  ancient 


of  literatures.  Their  language  had  probably  come  in  from  Asia;  the 
oldest  specimens  of  it  show  many  Semitic  affinities.180  The  earliest  writing 
was  apparently  pictographic— an  object  was  represented  by  drawing  a  pic- 
ture of  it:  e.g.,  the  word  for  house  (Egyptian  per)  was  indicated  by  a 
small  rectangle  with  an  opening  on  one  of  the  long  sides.  As  some  ideas 
were  too  abstract  to  be  literally  pictured,  pictography  passed  into  ideog- 
raphy:  certain  pictures  were  by  custom  and  convention  used  to  represent 
not  the  objects  pictured  but  the  ideas  suggested  by  them;  so  the  forepart 
of  a  lion  meant  supremacy  (as  in  the  Sphinx),  a  wasp  meant  royalty,  and 
a  tadpole  stood  for  thousands.  As  a  further  development  along  this  line, 
abstract  ideas,  which  had  at  first  resisted  representation,  were  indicated 
by  picturing  objects  whose  names  happened  to  resemble  the  spoken  words 
that  corresponded  to  the  ideas;  so  the  picture  of  a  lute  came  to  mean  not 
only  lute,  but  good,  because  the  Egyptian  word-sound  for  lute-— nefer— 
resembled  the  word-sound  for  good— nofer.  Queer  rebus  combinations 
grew  out  of  these  homonyms— words  of  like  sound  but  different  meanings. 
Since  the  verb  to  be  was  expressed  in  the  spoken  language  by  the  sound 
khopiru,  the  scribe,  being  puzzled  to  find  a  picture  for  so  intangible  a  con- 
ception, split  the  word  into  parts,  kho-pi-ru,  expressed  these  by  picturing 
in  succession  a  sieve  (called  in  the  spoken  language  khau),  a  mat  (pi),  and 
a  mouth  (ru)\  use  and  wont,  which  sanctify  so  many  absurdities,  soon 
made  this  strange  assortment  of  characters  suggest  the  idea  of  being.  In 
this  way  the  Egyptian  arrived  at  the  syllable,  the  syllabic  sign,  and  the 
syllabary— i.e.,  a  collection  of  syllabic  signs;  and  by  dividing  difficult  words 
into  syllables,  finding  homonyms  for  these,  and  drawing  in  combina- 
tion the  objects  suggested  by  these  syllabic  sounds,  he  was  able,  in  the 
course  of  time,  to  make  the  hieroglyphic  signs  convey  almost  any  idea. 
Only  one  step  remained— to  invent  letters.  The  sign  for  a  house  meant 
at  first  the  word  for  house— per;  then  it  meant  the  sound  per,  or  p-r  with 
any  vowel  in  between,  as  a  syllable  in  any  word.  Then  the  picture  was 
shortened,  and  used  to  represent  the  sound  po,  pa,  pu,  pe  or  pi  in  any 
word;  and  since  vowels  were  never  written,  this  was  equivalent  to  having 
a  character  for  JP.  By  a  like  development  the  sign  for  a  hand  (Egyptian 
dot)  came  to  mean  do,  da,  etc.,  finally  D;  the  sign  for  mouth  (ro  or  ru) 
came  to  mean  R;  the  sign  for  snake  (zt)  became  Z;  the  sign  for  lake  (shy) 
became  Sh.  .  .  .  The  result  was  an  alphabet  of  twenty-four  consonants, 
which  passed  with  Egyptian  and  Phoenician  trade  to  all  quarters  of  the 
Mediterranean,  and  came  down,  via  Greece  and  Rome,  as  one  of  the  most 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  173 

precious  parts  of  our  Oriental  heritage.140  Hieroglyphics  are  as  old  as  the 
earliest  dynasties;  alphabetic  characters  appear  first  in  inscriptions  left  by 
the  Egyptians  in  the  mines  of  the  Sinai  peninsula,  variously  dated  at  2500 
and  1500  B.C.141* 

Whether  wisely  or  not,  the  Egyptians  never  adopted  a  completely 
alphabetic  writing;  like  modern  stenographers  they  mingled  pictographs, 
ideographs  and  syllabic  signs  with  their  letters  to  the  very  end  of  their 
civilization.  This  has  made  it  difficult  for  scholars  to  read  Egyptian,  but 
it  is  quite  conceivable  that  such  a  medley  of  longhand  and  shorthand 
facilitated  the  business  of  writing  for  those  Egyptians  who  could  spare  the 
time  to  learn  it.  Since  English  speech  is  no  honorable  guide  to  English 
spelling,  it  is  probably  as  difficult  for  a  contemporary  lad  to  learn  the 
devious  ways  of  English  orthography  as  it  was  for  the  Egyptian  scribe  to 
memorize  by  use  the  five  hundred  hieroglyphs,  their  secondary  syllabic 
meanings,  and  their  tertiary  alphabetic  uses.  In  the  course  of  time  a  more 
rapid  and  sketchy  form  of  writing  was  developed  for  manuscripts,  as  dis- 
tinguished from  the  careful  "sacred  carvings"  of  the  monuments.  Since 
this  corruption  of  hieroglyphic  was  first  made  by  the  priests  and  the 
temple  scribes,  it  was  called  by  the  Greeks  hieratic;  but  it  soon  passed  into 
common  use  for  public,  commercial  and  private  documents.  A  still  more 
abbreviated  and  careless  form  of  this  script  was  developed  by  the  common 
people,  and  therefore  came  to  be  known  as  demotic.  On  the  monuments, 
however,  the  Egyptian  insisted  on  having  his  lordly  and  lovely  hiero- 
glyphic—perhaps the  most  picturesque  form  of  writing  ever  made. 

7.  Literature 

Texts  and  libraries—The  Egyptian  Sinbad—The  Story  of  Sinuhe— 

Fiction—An  amorous  fragment— Love  poems— History— A 

literary  revolution 

Most  of  the  literature  that  survives  from  ancient  Egypt  is  written  in 
hieratic  script.  Little  of  it  remains,  and  we  are  forced  to  estimate  it 
from  the  fragments  that  do  it  only  the  blind  justice  of  chance;  perhaps  time 
destroyed  the  Shakespeares  of  Egypt,  and  preserved  only  the  poets  laure- 
ate. A  great  official  of  the  Fourth  Dynasty  is  called  on  his  tomb  "Scribe 

*  Sir  Charles  Marston  believes,  from  his  recent  researches  in  Palestine,  that  the  alphabet 
was  a  Semitic  invention,  and  credits  it,  on  highly  imaginative  grounds,  to  Abraham  him- 


of  the  House  of  Books";148  we  cannot  tell  whether  this  primeval  library 
was  a  repository  of  literature,  or  only  a  dusty  storehouse  of  public  records 
and  documents.  The  oldest  extant  Egyptian  literature  consists  of  the 
"Pyramid  Texts"— pious  matter  engraved  on  the  walls  in  five  pyramids 
of  the  Fifth  and  Sixth  Dynasties.*148  Libraries  have  come  down  to  us  from 
as  far  back  as  2000  B.C.— papyri  rolled  and  packed  in  jars,  labeled,  and 
ranged. on  shelves;1"5  in  one  such  jar  was  found  the  oldest  form  of  the  story 
of  Sinbad  the  Sailor,  or,  as  we  might  rather  call  it,  Robinson  Crusoe. 

"The  Story  of  the  Shipwrecked  Sailor"  is  a  simple  autobiographical 
fragment,  full  of  life  and  feeling.  "How  glad  is  he,"  says  this  ancient 
mariner,  in  a  line  reminiscent  of  Dante,  "that  relateth  what  he  hath  ex- 
perienced when  the  calamity  hath  passed!" 

I  will  relate  to  thee  something  that  was  experienced  by  me  myself, 
when  I  had  set  out  for  the  mines  of  the  Sovereign  and  had  gone 
down  to  the  sea  in  a  ship  of  180  feet  in  length  and  60  feet  in  breadth; 
and  therein  were  120  sailors  of  the  pick  of  Egypt.  They  scanned  the 
sky,  they  scanned  the  earth,  and  their  hearts  were  more  .  .  .  than 
those  of  lions.  They  foretold  a  storm  or  ever  it  came,  and  a  tempest 
when  as  yet  it  was  not. 

A  storm  burst  while  we  were  yet  at  sea.  .  .  .  We  flew  before  the 
wind  and  it  made  ...  a  wave  eight  cubits  high.  .  .  . 

Then  the  ship  perished,  and  of  them  that  were  in  it  not  one  sur- 
vived. And  I  was  cast  onto  an  island  by  a  wave  of  the  sea,  and  I 
spent  three  days  alone  with  mine  heart  as  my  companion.  I  slept 
under  the  shelter  of  a  tree,  and  embraced  the  shade.  Then  I  stretched 
forth  my  feet  in  order  to  find  out  what  I  could  put  into  my  mouth. 
I  found  figs  and  vines  there,  and  all  manner  of  fine  leeks.  .  .  .  There 
were  fish  there  and  fowl,  and  there  was  nothing  that  was  not  in  it. 
.  .  .  When  I  had  made  me  a  fire-drill  I  kindled  a  fire  and  made  a 
burnt-offering  for  the  gods.146 

Another  tale  recounts  the  adventures  of  Sinuhe,  a  public  official  who 
flees  from  Egypt  at  the  death  of  Amenemhet  I,  wanders  from  country  to 
country  of  the  Near  East,  and,  despite  prosperity  and  honors  there,  suffers 
unbearably  from  lonesomeness  for  his  native  land.  At  last  he  gives  up 
riches,  and  makes  his  way  through  many  hardships  back  to  Egypt. 

*A  later  group  of  funerary  inscriptions,  written  in  ink  upon  the  inner  sides  of  the 
wooden  coffins  used  to  inter  certain  nobles  and  magnates  of  the  Middle  Kingdom,  have 
been  gathered  together  by  Breasted  and  others  under  the  name  of  "Coffin  Texts.""4 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  175 

0  God,  whosoever  thou  art,  that  didst  ordain  this  flight,  bring  me 
again  to  the  House  (i.e.,  the  Pharaoh).  Peradventure  thou  wilt  suffer 
me  to  see  the  place  wherein  mine  heart  dwelleth.  What  is  a  greater 
matter  than  that  my  corpse  should  be  buried  in  the  land  wherein  I 
was  born?  Come  to  mine  aid!   May  good  befall,  may  God  show  me 

In  the  sequel  we  find  him  home  again,  weary  and  dusty  with  many  miles 
of  desert  travel,  and  fearful  lest  the  Pharaoh  reprove  him  for  his  long  ab- 
sence from  a  land  which,  like  all  others,  looked  upon  itself  as  the  only 
civilized  country  in  the  world.  But  the  Pharaoh  forgives  him,  and  extends 
to  him  every  cosmetic  courtesy: 

1  was  placed  in  the  house  of  a  king's  son,  in  which  there  was  noble 
equipment,  and  a  bath  was  therein.  .  .  .  Years  were  made  to  pass 
away  from  my  body;  I  was  shaved  (?)  and  my  hair  was  combed  (?). 
A  load  (of  dirt?)  was  given  over  to  the  desert,  and  the  (filthy) 
clothes  to  the  sand-farers.    And  I  was  arrayed  in  finest  linen,  and 
anointed  with  the  best  oil.147 

Short  stories  are  diverse  and  plentiful  in  the  fragments  that  have  come 
down  to  us  of  Egyptian  literature.  There  arc  marvelous  tales  of  ghosts, 
miracles,  and  other  fascinating  concoctions,  as  credible  as  the  detective  stories 
that  satisfy  modern  statesmen;  there  are  high-sounding  romances  of  princes 
and  princesses,  kings  and  queens,  including  the  oldest  known  form  of  the  tale 
of  Cinderella,  her  exquisite  foot,  her  wandering  slipper,  and  her  royal-hymen- 
eal denouement;14*  there  are  fables  of  animals  illustrating  by  their  conduct  the 
foibles  and  passions  of  humanity,  and  pointing  morals  sagely148— a  kind  of 
premonitory  plagiarism  from  /Esop  and  La  Fontaine.  Typical  of  the  Egyptian 
mingling  of  natural  and  supernatural  is  the  tale  of  Anupu  and  Bitiu,  older  and 
younger  brothers,  who  live  happily  on  their  farm  until  Anupu's  wife  falls  in 
love  with  Bitiu,  is  repulsed  by  him,  and  revenges  herself  by  accusing  him,  to 
his  brother,  of  having  offered  her  violence.  Gods  and  crocodiles  come  to 
Bitiu's  aid  against  Anupu;  but  Bitiu,  disgusted  with  mankind,  mutilates  himself 
to  prove  his  innocence,  retires  Timon-like  to  the  woods,  and  places  his  heart 
unreachably  high  on  the  topmost  flower  of  a  tree.  The  gods,  pitying  his  lone- 
liness, create  for  him  a  wife  of  such  beauty  that  the  Nile  falls  in  love  with 
her,  and  steals  a  lock  of  her  hair.  Drifting  down  the  stream,  the  lock  is 
found  by  the  Pharaoh,  who,  intoxicated  by  its  scent,  commands  his  henchmen 
to  find  the  owner.  She  is  found  and  brought  to  him,  and  he  marries  her. 
Jealous  of  Bitiu  he  sends  men  to  cut  down  the  tree  on  which  Bitiu  has  placed 


his  heart.   The  tree  is  cut  down,  and  as  the  flower  touches  the  earth  Bitiu 
dies."*  How  little  the  taste  of  our  ancestors  differed  from  our  own! 

The  early  literature  of  the  Egyptians  is  largely  religious;  and  the  oldest 
Egyptian  poems  are  the  hymns  of  the  Pyramid  Texts.  Their  form  is  also 
the  most  ancient  poetic  form  known  to  us— that  "parallelism  of  members," 
or  repetition  of  the  thought  in  different  phrase,  which  the  Hebrew  poets 
adopted  from  the  Egyptians  and  Babylonians,  and  immortalized  in  the 
Psalms.151  As  the  Old  passes  into  the  Middle  Kingdom,  the  literature  tends 
to  become  secular  and  "profane."  We  catch  some  glimpse  of  a  lost  body 
of  amorous  literature  in  a  fragment  preserved  to  us  through  the  laziness  of 
a  Middle  Kingdom  scribe  who  did  not  complete  his  task  of  wiping  clear 
an  old  papyrus,  but  left  legible  some  twenty-five  lines  that  tell  of  a 
simple  shepherd's  encounter  with  a  goddess.  "This  goddess,"  says  the 
story,  "met  with  him  as  he  wended  his  way  to  the  pool,  and  she  had 
stripped  off  her  clothes  and  disarrayed  her  hair."  The  shepherd  reports 
the  matter  cautiously: 

"Behold  ye,  when  I  went  down  to  the  swamp.  ...  I  saw  a  woman 
therein,  and  she  looked  not  like  a  mortal  being.  My  hair  stood  on 
end  when  I  saw  her  tresses,  because  her  color  was  so  bright.  Never 
will  I  do  what  she  said;  awe  of  her  is  in  my  body."153 

The  love  songs  abound  in  number  and  beauty,  but  as  they  celebrate 
chiefly  the  amours  of  brothers  and  sisters  they  will  shock  or  amuse  the 
modern  ear.  One  collection  is  called  "The  Beautiful  Joyous  Songs  of 
thy  sister  whom  thy  heart  loves,  who  walks  in  the  fields."  An  ostracon 
or  shell  dating  back  to  the  Nineteenth  or  Twentieth  Dynasty  plays  a 
modern  theme  on  the  ancient  chords  of  desire: 

The  love  of  my  beloved  leaps  on  the  bank  of  the  stream. 

A  crocodile  lies  in  the  shadows; 

Yet  I  go  down  into  the  water,  and  breast  the  wave. 

My  courage  is  high  on  the  stream, 

And  the  water  is  as  land  to  my  feet. 

It  is  her  love  that  makes  me  strong. 

She  is  a  book  of  spells  to  me. 

When  I  behold  my  beloved  coming  my  heart  is  glad, 

My  arms  are  spread  apart  to  embrace  her; 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  177 

My  heart  rejoices  forever  .  .  .  since  my  beloved  came. 

When  I  embrace  her  I  am  as  one  who  is  in  Incense  Land, 

As  one  who  carries  perfumes. 

When  I  kiss  her,  her  lips  are  opened, 

And  I  am  made  merry  without  beer. 

Would  that  I  were  her  Negress  slave  who  is  in  attendance  on  her; 

So  should  I  behold  the  hue  of  all  her  limbs.168 

The  lines  have  been  arbitrarily  divided  here;  we  cannot  tell  from  the 
external  form  of  the  original  that  it  is  verse.  The  Egyptians  knew  that 
music  and  feeling  are  the  twin  essences  of  poetry;  if  these  were  present, 
the  outward  shape  did  not  matter.  Often,  however,  the  rhythm  was  ac- 
centuated, as  we  have  seen,  by  "parallelism  of  members."  Sometimes  the 
poet  used  the  device  of  beginning  every  sentence  or  stanza  with  the  same 
word;  sometimes  he  played  like  a  punster  with  like  sounds  meaning  unlike 
or  incongruous  things;  and  it  is  clear  from  the  texts  that  the  trick  of 
alliteration  is  as  old  as  the  Pyramids.1"  These  simple  forms  were  enough; 
with  them  the  Egyptian  poet  could  express  almost  every  shade  of  that 
"romantic"  love  which  Nietzsche  supposed  was  an  invention  of  the 
Troubadours.  The  Harris  Papyrus  shows  that  such  sentiments  could  be 
expressed  by  a  woman  as  well  as  by  a  man: 

I  am  thy  first  sister, 

And  thou  art  to  me  as  the  garden 

Which  I  have  planted  with  flowers 

And  all  sweet-smelling  herbs. 

I  directed  a  canal  into  it, 

That  thou  mightcst  dip  thy  hand  into  it 

When  the  north  wind  blows  cool. 

The  beautiful  place  where  we  take  a  walk, 

When  thy  hand  rests  within  mine, 

With  thoughtful  mind  and  joyous  heart 

Because  we  walk  together. 

It  is  intoxicating  to  me  to  hear  thy  voice, 

And  my  life  depends  upon  hearing  thee. 

Whenever  I  see  thee 

It  is  better  to  me  than  food  or  drink."* 

All  in  all  it  is  astonishing  how  varied  the  fragments  are.  Formal  letters, 
legal  documents,  historical  narratives,  magic  formulas,  laborious  hymns,  books 


of  devotion,  songs  of  love  and  war,  romantic  novelettes,  moral  exhortations, 
philosophical  treatises— everything  is  represented  here  except  epic  and  drama, 
and  even  of  these  one  might  by  stretching  a  point  find  instances.  The  story 
of  Rameses  IFs  dashing  victories,  engraved  patiently  in  verse  upon  brick  after 
brick  of  the  great  pylon  at  Luxor,  is  epic  at  least  in  length  and  dulness.  In 
another  inscription  Rameses  IV  boasts  that  in  a  play  he  had  defended  Osiris 
from  Set,  and  had  recalled  Osiris  to  life.1"  Our  knowledge  does  not  allow  us 
to  amplify  this  hint. 

Historiography,  in  Egypt,  is  as  old  as  history;  even  the  kings  of  the  pre- 
dynastic  period  kept  historical  records  proudly.3"  Official  historians  accom- 
panied the  Pharaohs  on  their  expeditions,  never  saw  their  defeats,  and  re- 
corded, or  invented,  the  details  of  their  victories;  already  the  writing  of  his- 
tory had  become  a  cosmetic  art.  As  far  back  as  2500  B.C.  Egyptian  scholars 
made  lists  of  their  kings,  named  the  years  from  them,  and  chronicled  the  out- 
standing events  of  each  year  and  reign;  by  the  time  of  Thutmose  III  these 
documents  became  full-fledged  histories,  eloquent  with  patriotic  emotion.1" 
Egyptian  philosophers  of  the  Middle  Kingdom  thought  both  man  and  history 
old  and  effete,  and  mourned  the  lusty  youth  of  their  race;  Khekheperre- 
Sonbu,  a  savant  of  the  reign  of  Senusret  II,  about  2150  B.C.,  complained  that 
all  things  had  long  since  been  said,  and  nothing  remained  for  literature  except 
repetition.  "Would,"  he  cried  unhappily,  "that  I  had  words  that  are  un- 
known, utterances  and  sayings  in  new  language,  that  hath  not  yet  passed 
away,  and  without  that  which  hath  been  said  repeatedly— not  an  utterance 
that  hath  grown  stale,  what  the  ancestors  have  already  said."1" 

Distance  blurs  for  us  the  variety  and  changefulness  of  Egyptian  lit- 
erature, as  it  blurs  the  individual  differences  of  unfamiliar  peoples.  Never- 
theless, in  the  course  of  its  long  development  Egyptian  letters  passed 
through  movements  and  moods  as  varied  as  those  that  have  disturbed  the 
history  of  European  literature.  As  in  Europe,  so  in  Egypt  the  language 
of  everyday  speech  diverged  gradually,  at  last  almost  completely,  from 
that  in  which  the  books*  of  the  Old  Kingdom  had  been  written.  For  a 
long  time  authors  continued  to  compose  in  the  ancient  tongue;  scholars 
acquired  it  in  school,  and  students  were  compelled  to  translate  the  "classics" 
with  the  help  of  grammars  and  vocabularies,  and  with  the  occasional  as- 
,  sistance  of  "interlinears."  In  the  fourteenth  century  B.C.  Egyptian  authors 
rebelled  against  this  bondage  to  tradition,  and  like  Dante  and  Chaucer 
dared  to  write  in  the  language  of  the  people;  Ikhnaton's  famous  Hymn  to 
the  Sun  is  itself  composed  in  the  popular  speech.  The  new  literature  was 
realistic,  youthful,  buoyant;  it  took  delight  in  flouting  the  old  forms  and 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  179 

describing  the  new  life.  In  time  this  language  also  became  literary  and 
formal,  refined  and  precise,  rigid  and  impeccable  with  conventions  of 
word  and  phrase;  once  again  the  language  of  letters  separated  from  the 
language  of  speech,  and  scholasticism  flourished;  the  schools  of  Sa'ite  Egypt 
spent  half  their  time  studying  and  translating  the  "classics"  of  Ikhnaton's 
day.180  Similar  transformations  of  the  native  tongue  went  on  under  the 
Greeks,  under  the  Romans,  under  the  Arabs;  another  is  going  on  today. 
Panta  rei— all  things  flow;  only  scholars  never  change. 

8.  Science 

Origins  of  Egyptian  science— Mathematics— Astronomy  and  the 
calendar  —  Anatomy  and  physiology  —  Medicine,  surgery 

and  hygiene 

The  scholars  of  Egypt  were  mostly  priests,  enjoying,  far  from  the  tur- 
moil of  life,  the  comfort  and  security  of  the  temples;  and  it  was  these 
priests  who,  despite  all  their  superstitions,  laid  the  foundations  of  Egyptian 
science.  According  to  their  own  legends  the  sciences  had  been  invented 
some  18,000  B.C.  by  Thoth,  the  Egyptian  god  of  wisdom,  during  his  three- 
thousand-year-long  reign  on  earth;  and  the  most  ancient  books  in  each 
science  were  among  the  twenty  thousand  volumes  composed  by  this 
learned  deity.*161  Our  knowledge  does  not  permit  us  to  improve  sub- 
stantially upon  this  theory  of  the  origins  of  science  in  Egypt. 

At  the  very  outset  of  recorded  Egyptian  history  we  find  mathematics 
highly  developed;  the  design  and  construction  of  the  Pyramids  involved  a  pre- 
cision of  measurement  impossible  without  considerable  mathematical  lore. 
The  dependence  of  Egyptian  life  upon  the  fluctuations  of  the  Nile  led  to 
careful  records  and  calculations  of  the  rise  and  recession  of  the  river;  sur- 
veyors and  scribes  were  continually  remeasuring  the  land  whose  boundaries 
had  been  obliterated  by  the  inundation,  and  this  measuring  of  the  land  was 
evidently  the  origin  of  geo-mctry.1*  Nearly  all  the  ancients  agreed  in  ascrib- 
ing the  invention  of  this  science  to  the  Egyptians.104  Josephus,  however, 
thought  that  Abraham  had  brought  arithmetic  from  Chaldea  (i.e.,  Mesopo- 
tamia) to  Egypt;1"5  and  it  is  not  impossible  that  this  and  other  arts  came  to 
Egypt  from  "Ur  of  the  Chaldees,"  or  some  other  center  of  western  Asia. 

*  So  we  are  assured  by  lamblichus  (ca.  300  AJ>.)  .  Manetho,  the  Egyptian  historian  (ca. 
300  B.C.),  would  have  considered  this  estimate  unjust  to  the  god;  the  proper  number  of 
Thoth's  works,  in  his  reckoning,  was  36,000.  The  Greeks  celebrated  Thoth  under  the 
name  of  Hermes  Trismegistus— Hermes  (Mercury)  the  Thrice-Great.1'12 


The  figures  used  were  cumbersome— one  stroke  for  i,  two  strokes  for  2,  ... 
nine  strokes  for  9,  with  a  new  sign  for  10.  Two  10  signs  stood  for  20,  three 
10  signs  for  30, ...  nine  for  90,  with  a  new  sign  for  100.  Two  100  signs  stood 
for  200,  three  100  signs  for  300,  .  .  .  nine  for  900,  with  a  new  sign  for  1000. 
The  sign  for  1,000,000  was  a  picture  of  a  man  striking  his  hands  above  his 
head,  as  if  to  express  amazement  that  such  a  number  should  exist.108  The 
Egyptians  fell  just  short  of  the  decimal  system;  they  had  no  zero,  and  never 
reached  the  idea  of  expressing  all  numbers  with  ten  digits:  e.g.,  they  used 
twenty-seven  signs  to  write  999-107  They  had  fractions,  but  always  with  the 
numerator  i;  to  express  %  they  wrote  l/2  +  1A-  Multiplication  and  division 
tables  are  as  old  as  the  Pyramids.  The  oldest  mathematical  treatise  known  is 
the  Ahmes  Papyrus,  dating  back  to  2000-1700  B.C.;  but  this  in  turn  refers  to 
mathematical  writings  five  hundred  years  more  ancient  than  itself.  It  illus- 
trates by  examples  the  computation  of  the  capacity  of  a  barn  or  the  area  of  a 
field,  and  passes  to  algebraic  equations  of  the  first  degree.108  Egyptian  geome- 
try measured  not  only  the  area  of  squares,  circles  and  cubes,  but  also  the 
cubic  content  of  cylinders  and  spheres;  and  it  arrived  at  3.16  as  the  value 
of  ir.16*  We  enjoy  the  honor  of  having  advanced  from  3.16  to  3.1416  in  four 
thousand  years. 

Of  Egyptian  physics  and  chemistry  we  know  nothing,  and  almost  as  little 
of  Egyptian  astronomy.  The  star-gazers  of  the  temples  seem  to  have  con- 
ceived the  earth  as  a  rectangular  box,  with  mountains  at  the  corners  uphold- 
ing the  sky.170  They  made  no  note  of  eclipses,  and  were  in  general  less  ad- 
vanced than  their  Mesopotamian  contemporaries.  Nevertheless  they  knew 
enough  to  predict  the  day  on  which  the  Nile  would  rise,  and  to  orient  their 
temples  toward  that  point  on  the  horizon  where  the  sun  would  appear  on  the 
morning  of  the  summer  solstice.1"  Perhaps  they  knew  more  than  they  cared 
to  publish  among  a  people  whose  superstitions  were  so  precious  to  their 
rulers;  the  priests  regarded  their  astronomical  studies  as  an  esoteric  and  mys- 
terious science,  which  they  were  reluctant  to  disclose  to  the  common  world.173 
For  century  after  century  they  kept  track  of  the  position  and  movements  of 
the  planets,  until  their  records  stretched  back  for  thousands  of  years.  They 
distinguished  between  planets  and  fixed  stars,  noted  in  their  catalogues  stars 
of  the  fifth  magnitude  (practically  invisible  to  the  unaided  eye),  and  charted 
what  they  thought  were  the  astral  influences  of  the  heavens  on  the  fortunes 
of  men.  From  these  observations  they  built  the  calendar  which  was  to  be 
another  of  Egypt's  greatest  gifts  to  mankind. 

They  began  by  dividing  the  year  into  three  seasons  of  four  months  each: 
first,  tie  rise,  overflow  and  recession  of  the  Nile;  second,  the  period  of  cul- 
tivation; and  third,  the  period  of  harvesting.  To  each  of  these  months  they 
assigned  thirty  days,  as  being  the  most  convenient  approximation  to  the  lunar 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  1 8 1 

month  of  twenty-nine  and  a  half  days;  their  word  for  month,  like  ours,  was 
derived  from  their  symbol  for  the  moon.*  At  the  end  of  the  twelfth  month 
they  added  five  days  to  bring  the  year  into  harmony  with  the  river  and  the 
sun."4  As  the  beginning  of  their  year  they  chose  the  day  on  which  the  Nile 
usually  reached  its  height,  and  on  which,  originally,  the  great  star  Sirius 
(which  they  called  Sothis)  rose  simultaneously  with  the  sun.  Since  their 
calendar  allowed  only  365,  instead  of  36554,  days  to  a  year,  this  "heliacal 
rising"  of  Sirius  (i.e.,  its  appearance  just  before  sunrise,  after  having  been 
invisible  for  a  number  of  days)  came  a  day  later  every  four  years;  and  in 
this  way  the  Egyptian  calendar  diverged  by  six  hours  annually  from  the 
actual  calendar  of  the  sky.  The  Egyptians  never  corrected  this  error.  Many 
years  later  (46  B.C.)  the  Greek  astronomers  of  Alexandria,  by  direction  of 
Julius  Caesar,  improved  this  calendar  by  adding  an  extra  day  every  fourth 
year;  this  was  the  "Julian  Calendar."  Under  Pope  Gregory  XIII  (1582) 
a  more  accurate  correction  was  made  by  omitting  this  extra  day  (February 
zpth)  in  century  years  not  divisible  by  400;  this  is  the  "Gregorian  Calendar" 
that  we  use  today.  Our  calendar  is  essentially  the  creation  of  the  ancient 

Despite  the  opportunities  offered  by  embalming,  the  Egyptians  made  rela- 
tively poor  progress  in  the  study  of  the  human  body.  They  thought  that  the 
blood-vessels  carried  air,  water,  and  excretory  fluids,  and  they  believed  the 

*  The  clepsydra,  or  water-clock,  was  so  old  with  the  Egyptians  that  they  attributed  its 
invention  to  their  handy  god-of-all-tradcs,  Thoth.  The  oldest  clock  in  existence  dates 
from  Thutmose  III,  and  is  now  in  the  Berlin  Museum.  It  consists  of  a  bar  of  wood, 
divided  into  six  parts  or  hours,  upon  which  a  crosspiecc  was  so  placed  that  its  shadow  on 
the  bar  would  indicate  the  time  of  the  morning  or  the  afternoon.178 

t  Since  the  heliacal  rising  of  Sirius  occurred  one  day  later,  every  four  years,  than  the 
Egyptian  calendar  demanded,  the  error  amounted  to  365  days  in  1460  years;  on  the  com- 
pletion of  this  "Sothic  cycle"  (as  the  Egyptians  called  it)  the  paper  calendar  and  the 
celestial  calendar  again  agreed.  Since  we  know  from  the  Latin  author  Censorius  that  the 
heliacal  rising  of  Sirius  coincided  in  139  A.D.  with  the  beginning  of  the  Egyptian  calendar 
year,  we  may  presume  that  a  similar  coincidence  occurred  every  1460  years  previously— 
i.e.,  in  1321  B.C.,  2781  B.C.,  4241  B.C.,  etc.  And  since  the  Egyptian  calendar  was  apparently 
established  in  a  year  when  the  heliacal  rising  of  Sirius  took  place  on  the  first  day  of  the 
first  month,  we  conclude  that  that  calendar  came  into  operation  in  a  year  that  opened  a 
Sothic  cycle.  The  earliest  mention  of  the  Egyptian  calendar  is  in  the  religious  texts  in- 
scribed in  the  pyramids  of  the  Fourth  Dynasty.  Since  this  dynasty  is  unquestionably 
earlier  than  1321  B.C.,  the  calendar  must  have  been  established  in  2781  B.C.,  or  4241  B.C.,  or 
still  earlier.  The  older  date,  once  acclaimed  as  the  first  definite  date  in  history,  has  been 
disputed  by  Professor  ScharfF,  and  it  is  possible  that  we  shall  have  to  accept  2781  B.C.  as 
the  approximate  birth-year  of  the  Egyptian  calendar.  This  would  require  a  foreshorten- 
ing, by  three  or  four  hundred  years,  of  the  dates  assigned  above  for  the  early  dynasties 
and  the  great  Pyramids.  As  the  matter  is  very  much  in  dispute,  the  chronology  of  the 
Cambridge  Ancient  History  has  been  adopted  in  these  pages. 


heart  and  bowels  to  be  the  seat  of  the  mind;  perhaps  if  we  knew  what  they 
meant  by  these  terms  we  should  find  them  not  so  divergent  from  our  own 
ephemeral  certainties.  They  described  with  general  accuracy  the  larger  bones 
and  viscera,  and  recognized  the  function  of  the  heart  as  the  driving  power  of 
the  organism  and  the  center  of  the  circulatory  system:  "its  vessels,"  says  the 
Ebers  Papyrus,17"  "lead  to  all  the  members;  whether  the  doctor  lays  his  finger 
on  the  forehead,  on  the  back  of  the  head,  on  the  hands,  ...  or  on  the  feet, 
f  everywhere  he  meets  with  the  heart."  From  this  to  Leonardo  and  Harvey 
was  but  a  step— which  took  three  thousand  years. 

The  glory  of  Egyptian  science  was  medicine.  Like  almost  everything 
else  in  the  cultural  life  of  Egypt,  it  began  with  the  priests,  and  dripped 
with  evidences  of  its  magical  origins.  Among  the  people  amulets  were 
more  popular  than  pills  as  preventive  or  curative  of  disease;  disease  was  to 
them  a  possession  by  devils,  and  was  to  be  treated  with  incantations.  A 
cold  for  instance,  could  be  exorcised  by  such  magic  words  as:  "Depart, 
cold,  son  of  a  cold,  thou  who  breakest  the  bones,  destroyest  the  skull,  mak- 
est  ill  the  seven  openings  of  the  head!  .  . .  Go  out  on  the  floor,  stink,  stink, 
stink!"177— a  cure  probably  as  effective  as  contemporary  remedies  for  this 
ancient  disease.  From  such  depths  we  rise  in  Egypt  to  great  physicians, 
surgeons  and  specialists,  who  acknowledged  an  ethical  code  that  passed 
down  into  the  famous  Hippocratic  oath.178  Some  of  them  specialized  in 
obstetrics  or  gynecology,  some  treated  only  gastric  disorders,  some  were 
oculists  so  internationally  famous  that  Cyrus  sent  for  one  of  them  to 
come  to  Persia.179  The  general  practitioner  was  left  to  gather  the  crumbs 
and  heal  the  poor;  in  addition  to  which  he  was  expected  to  provide  cos- 
metics, hair-dyes,  skin-culture,  limb-beautification,  and  flea-exterminators.180 

Several  papyri  devoted  to  medicine  have  come  down  to  us.  The  most 
valuable  of  them,  named  from  the  Edwin  Smith  who  discovered  it,  is  a 
roll  fifteen  feet  long,  dating  about  1600  B.C.,  and  going  back  for  its  sources 
to  much  earlier  works;  even  in  its  extant  form  it  is  the  oldest  scientific 
document  known  to  history.  It  describes  forty-eight  cases  in  clinical 
surgery,  from  cranial  fractures  to  injuries  of  the  spine.  Each  case  is  treated 
in  logical  order,  under  the  heads  of  provisional  diagnosis,  examination, 
semeiology,  diagnosis,  prognosis,  treatment,  and  glosses  on  the  terms  used. 
The  author  notes,  with  a  clarity  unrivaled  till  the  eighteenth  century 
of  our  era,  that  control  of  the  lower  limbs  is  localized  in  the  "brain"— a 
word  which  here  appears  for  the  first  time  in  literature.1*1 

The  Egyptians  enjoyed  a  great  variety  of  diseases,  though  they  had  to 
die  of  them  without  knowing  their  Greek  names.  The  mummies  and 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  183 

papyri  tell  of  spinal  tuberculosis,  arteriosclerosis,  gall-stones,  small-pox,  in- 
fantile paralysis,  anemia,  rheumatic  arthritis,  epilepsy,  gout,  mastoiditis,  ap- 
pendicitis, and  such  marvelous  affections  as  spondylitis  deformans  and 
achondroplasia.  There  are  no  signs  of  syphilis  or  cancer;  but  pyorrhea  and 
dental  caries,  absent  in  the  oldest  mummies,  become  frequent  in  the  later 
ones,  indicating  the  progress  of  civilization.  The  atrophy  and  fusion  of  the 
bones  of  the  small  toe,  often  ascribed  to  the  modern  shoe,  was  common  in 
ancient  Egypt,  where  nearly  all  ages  and  ranks  went  barefoot."* 

Against  these  diseases  the  Egyptian  doctors  were  armed  with  an  abund- 
ant pharmacopoeia.  The  Ebers  Papyrus  lists  seven  hundred  remedies  for 
everything  from  snake-bite  to  puerperal  fever.  The  Kahun  Papyrus  (ca. 
1850  B.C.)  prescribes  suppositories  apparently  used  for  contraception.188' 
The  tomb  of  an  JEleventh  Dynasty  queen  revealed  a  medicine  chest  con- 
taining vases,  spoons,  dried  drugs,  and  roots.  Prescriptions  hovered  between 
medicine  and  magic,  and  relied  for  their  effectiveness  in  great  part  on  the 
repulsiveness  of  the  concoction.  Lizard's  blood,  swine's  ears  and  teeth, 
putrid  meat  and  fat,  a  tortoise's  brains,  an  old  book  boiled  in  oil,  the  milk 
of  a  lying-in  woman,  the  water  of  a  chaste  woman,  the  excreta  of  men, 
donkeys,  dogs,  lions,  cats  and  lice— all  these  are  found  in  the  prescriptions. 
Baldness  was  treated  by  rubbing  the  head  with  animal  fat.  Some  of  these 
cures  passed  from  the  Egyptians  to  the  Greeks,  from  the  Greeks  to  the 
Romans,  and  from»the  Romans  to  us;  we  still  swallow  trustfully  the  strange 
mixtures  that  were  brewed  four  thousand  years  ago  on  the  banks  of  the 

The  Egyptians  tried  to  promote  health  by  public  sanitation,*  by  cir- 
cumcision of  males, tlw  and  by  teaching  the  people  the  frequent  use  of  the 
enema.  Diodorus  Siculus1*7  tells  us: 

In  order  to  prevent  sicknesses  they  look  after  the  health  of  their 
body  by  means  of  drenches,  fastings  and  emetics,  sometimes  every 
day,  and  sometimes  at  intervals  of  three  or  four  days.  For  they  say 
that  the  larger  part  of  the  food  taken  into  the  body  is  superfluous, 
and  that  it  is  from  this  superfluous  part  that  diseases  are  engendered.^ 

Pliny  believed  that  this  habit  of  taking  enemas  was  learned  by  the 
Egyptians  from  observing  the  ibis,  a  bird  that  counteracts  the  constipating 

*  Excavations  reveal  arrangements  for  the  collection  of  rain-water  and  the  disposal  of 
sewage  by  a  system  of  copper  pipes.18* 

tEven  the  earliest  tombs  give  evidence  of  this  practice.18* 

J  So  old  is  the  modern  saw  that  we  live  on  one-fourth  of  what  we  eat,  and  the  doctors 
live  on  the  rest. 


character  of  its  food  by  using  its  long  bill  as  a  rectal  syringe."8  Herodotus 
reports  that  the  Egyptians  "purge  themselves  every  month,  three  days 
successively,  seeking  to  preserve  health  by  emetics  and  enemas;  for  they 
suppose  that  all  diseases  to  which  men  are  subject  proceed  from  the  food 
they  use."  And  this  first  historian  of  civilization  ranks  the  Egyptians  as, 
"next  to  the  Libyans,  the  healthiest  people  in  the  world.1* 

9.  Art 

Architecture— Old  Kingdom,  Middle  Kingdom,  Empire  and  Saite 
sculpture— Bas-relief— Painting— Minor  arts— Music— The  artists 

The  greatest  element  in  this  civilization  was  its  art.  Here,  almost  at 
the  threshold  of  history,  we  find  an  art  powerful  and  mature,  superior  to 
that  of  any  modern  nation,  and  equaled  only  by  that  of  Greece.  At  first 
the  luxury  of  isolation  and  peace,  and  then,  under  Thutmose  III  and 
Rameses  II,  the  spoils  of  oppression  and  war,  gave  to  Egypt  the  oppor- 
tunity and  the  means  for  massive  architecture,  masculine  statuary,  and  a 
hundred  minor  arts  that  so  early  touched  perfection.  The  whole  theory  of 
progress  hesitates  before  Egyptian  art. 

Architecture*  was  the  noblest  of  the  ancient  arts,  because  it  combined  in 
imposing  form  mass  and  duration,  beauty  and  use.  It  began  humbly  in 
the  adornment  of  tombs  and  the  external  decoration  of  homes.  Dwellings 
were  mostly  of  mud,  with  here  and  there  some  pretty  woodwork  (a 
Japanese  lattice,  a  well-carved  portal),  and  a  roof  strengthened  with  the 
tough  and  pliable  trunks  of  the  palm.  Around  the  house,  normally,  was 
a  wall  enclosing  a  court;  from  the  court  steps  led  to  the  roof;  from  this 
the  tenants  passed  down  into  the  rooms.  The  well-to-do  had  private 
gardens,  carefully  landscaped;  the  cities  provided  public  gardens  for  the 
poor,  and  hardly  a  home  but  had  its  ornament  of  flowers.  Inside  the  house 
the  walls  were  hung  with  colored  mattings,  and  the  floors,  if  the  master 
could  afford  it,  were  covered  with  rugs.  People  sat  on  these  rugs  rather 
than  on  chairs;  the  Egyptians  of  the  Old  Kingdom  squatted  for  their 
meals  at  tables  six  inches  high,  in  the  fashion  of  the  Japanese;  and  ate  with 
their  fingers,  like  Shakespeare.  Under  the  Empire,  when  slaves  were 
cheap,  the  upper  classes  sat  on  high  cushioned  chairs,  and  had  their  servants 
hand  them  course  after  course.190 

Stone  for  building  was  too  costly  for  homes;  it  was  a  luxury  reserved 
for  priests  and  kings.  Even  the  nobles,  ambitious  though  they  were,  left 

*  For  the  architecture  of  the  Old  Kingdom  cf .  sections  I,  i  and  3  of  this  chapter. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  185 

the  greatest  wealth  and  the  best  building  materials  to  the  temples;  in  con- 
sequence the  palaces  that  overlooked  almost  every  mile  of  the  river  in  the 
days  of  Amenhotep  III  crumbled  into  oblivion,  while  the  abodes  of  the 
gods  and  the  tombs  of  the  dead  remained.  By  the  Twelfth  Dynasty  the 
pyramid  had  ceased  to  be  the  fashionable  form  of  sepulture.  Khnumhotep 
(ca.  2180  B.C.)  chose  at  Beni-Hasan  the  quieter  form  of  a  colonnade  built 
into  the  mountainside;  and  this  theme,  once  established,  played  a  thou- 
sand variations  among  the  hills  on  the  western  slope  of  the  Nile.  From  the 
time  of  the  Pyramids  to  the  Temple  of  Hathor  at  Denderah— i.e.,  for  some 
three  thousand  years— there  rose  out  of  the  sands  of  Egypt  such  a  suc- 
cession of  architectural  achievements  as  no  civilization  has  ever  surpassed. 

At  Karnak  and  Luxor  a  riot  of  columns  raised  by  Thutmose  I  and  HI, 
Amenhotep  III,  Seti  I,  Rameses  II  and  other  monarchs  from  the  Twelfth 
to  the  Twenty-second  Dynasty;  at  Medinet-IIabu  (ca.  1300  B.C.)  a  vast 
but  less  distinguished  edifice,  on  whose  columns  an  Arab  village  rested  for 
centuries;  at  Abydos  the  Temple  of  Scti  I,  dark  and  sombre  in  its  massive 
ruins;  at  Elephantine  the  little  Temple  of  Khnum  (ca.  1400  B.C.),  "posi- 
tively Greek  in  its  precision  and  elegance";"1  at  Dcr-el-Bahri  the  stately 
colonnades  of  Queen  Hatshepsut;  near  it  the  Ramcsseum,  another  forest 
of  colossal  columns  and  statues  reared  by  the  architects  and  slaves  of 
Rameses  II;  at  Philce  the  lovely  Temple  of  Isis  (ca.  240  B.C.)  desolate  and 
abandoned  now  that  the  damming  of  the  Nile  at  Assuan  has  submerged 
the  bases  of  its  perfect  columns— these  are  sample  fragments  of  the  many 
monuments  that  still  adorn  the  valley  of  the  Nile,  and  attest  even  in  their 
ruins  the  strength  and  courage  of  the  race  that  reared  them.  Here,  perhaps, 
is  an  excess  of  pillars,  a  crowding  of  columns  against  the  tyranny  of  the 
sun,  a  Far-Eastern  aversion  to  symmetry,  a  lack  of  unity,  a  barbaric-mod- 
ern adoration  of  size.  But  here,  too,  are  grandeur,  sublimity,  majesty  and 
power;  here  are  the  arch  and  the  vault,108  used  sparingly  because  not 
needed,  but  ready  to  pass  on  their  principles  to  Greece  and  Rome  and 
modern  Europe;  here  are  decorative  designs  never  surpassed;109  here  are 
papyriform  columns,  lotiform  columns,  "proto-Doric"  columns,1"4  Caryatid 
columns,186  Hathor  capitals,  palm  capitals,  clerestories,  and  magnificent 
architraves  full  of  the  strength  and  stability  that  are  the  very  soul  of  archi- 
tecture's powerful  appeal.*  The  Egyptians  were  the  greatest  builders 
in  history. 

*  A  clerestory  is  that  portion  of  a  building  which,  being  above  the  roof  of  the  sur- 
rounding parts,  admits  light  to  the  edifice  by  a  series  of  openings.  An  architrave  is  the 
lowest  part  of  an  entablature—which  is  a  superstructure  supported  by  a  colonnade. 


Some  would  add  that  they  were  also  the  greatest  sculptors.  Here  at  the 
outset  is  the  Sphinx,  conveying  by  its  symbolism  the  leonine  quality  of 
some  masterful  Pharaoh—perhaps  Khafre-Chephren;  it  has  not  only  size, 
as  some  have  thought,  but  character.  The  cannon-shot  of  the  Mamelukes 
have  broken  the  nose  and  shorn  the  beard,  but  nevertheless  those  gigantic 
features  portray  with  impressive  skill  the  force  and  dignity,  the  calm 
and  sceptical  maturity,  of  a  natural  king.  Across  those  motionless  features 
a  subtle  smile  has  hovered  for  five  thousand  years,  as  if  already  the  un- 
known artist  or  monarch  had  understood  all  that  men  would  ever  under- 
stand about  men.  It  is  a  Mona  Lisa  in  stone. 

There  is  nothing  finer  in  the  history  of  sculpture  than  the  diorite  statue 
of  Khafre  in  the  Cairo  Museum;  as  ancient  to  Praxiteles  as  Praxiteles  to 
us,  it  nevertheless  comes  down  across  fifty  centuries  almost  unhurt  by 
time's  rough  usages;  cut  in  the  most  intractable  of  stones,  it  passes  on  to 
us  completely  the  strength  and  authority,  the  wilfulness  and  courage,  the 
sensitivity  and  intelligence  of  the  (artist  or  the)  King.  Near  it,  and  even 
older,  Pharaoh  Zoser  sits  pouting  in  limestone;  farther  on,  the  guide  with 
lighted  match  reveals  the  transparency  of  an  alabaster  Menkaure. 

Quite  as  perfect  in  artistry  as  these  portraits  of  royalty  are  the  figures 
of  the  Sheik-cl-Belcd  and  the  Scribe.  The  Scribe  has  come  down  to  us 
in  many  forms,  all  of  uncertain  antiquity;  the  most  illustrious  is  the 
squatting  Scribe  of  the  Louvre.*  The  Sheik  is  no  sheik  but  only  an  over- 
seer of  labor,  armed  with  the  staff  of  authority,  and  stepping  forward  as 
if  in  supervision  or  command.  His  name,  apparently,  was  Kaapiru;  but 
the  Arab  workmen  who  rescued  him  from  his  tomb  at  Sakkara  were  struck 
with  his  resemblance  to  the  Sheik-el-Beled  (i.e.,  Mayor-of-the- Village) 
under  whom  they  lived;  and  this  title  which  their  good  humor  gave  him 
is  now  inseparable  from  his  fame.  He  is  carved  only  in  mortal  wood, 
but  time  has  not  seriously  reduced  his  portly  figure  or  his  chubby  legs; 
his  waistline  has  all  the  amplitude  of  the  comfortable  bourgeois  in  every 
civilization;  his  rotund  face  beams  with  the  content  of  a  man  who  knows 
his  place  and  glories  in  it.  The  bald  head  and  carelessly  loosened  robe 
display  the  realism  of  an  art  already  old  enough  to  rebel  against  idealiza- 
tion; but  here,  too,  is  a  fine  simplicity,  a  complete  humanity,  expressed 
without  bitterness,  and  with  the  ease  and  grace  of  a  practised  and  confident 
hand.  "If,"  says  Maspero,  "some  exhibition  of  the  world's  masterpieces 

*  Cf.  p.  161  above.  Other  scribes  adorn  the  Cairo  Museum,  and  the  State  Museum  at 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  187 

were  to  be  inaugurated,  I  should  choose  this  work  to  uphold  the  honor 
of  Egyptian  art"1""— or  would  that  honor  rest  more  securely  on  the  head 
of  Khafre? 

These  are  the  chefs-d'oeuvres  of  Old  Kingdom  statuary.  But  lesser 
masterpieces  abound:  the  seated  portraits  of  Rahotep  and  his  wife  Nofrit, 
the  powerful  figure  of  Ranofer  the  priest,  the  copper  statues  of  King 
Phiops  and  his  son,  a  falcon-head  in  gold,  the  humorous  figures  of  the 
Beer-Brewer  and  the  Dwarf  Knemhotep— all  but  one  in  the  Cairo  Museum, 
all  without  exception  instinct  with  character.  It  is  true  that  the  earlier 
pieces  are  coarse  and  crude;  that  by  a  strange  convention,  running  through- 
out Egyptian  art,  figures  are  shown  with  the  body  and  eyes  facing  for- 
ward, but  the  hands  and  feet  in  profile;*  that  not  much  attention  was  given 
to  the  body,  which  was  left  in  most  cases  stereotyped  and  unreal— all  female 
bodies  young,  all  royal  bodies  strong;  and  that  individualization,  though 
masterly,  was  generally  reserved  for  the  head.  But  with  all  the  stiffness 
and  sameness  that  priestly  conventions  and  control  forced  upon  statuary, 
paintings  and  reliefs,  these  works  were  fully  redeemed  by  the  power  and 
depth  of  the  conception,  the  vigor  and  precision  of  the  execution,  the 
character,  line  and  finish  of  the  product.  Never  was  sculpture  more  alive: 
the  Sheik  exudes  authority,  the  woman  grinding  grain  gives  every  sense 
and  muscle  to  her  work,  the  Scribe  is  on  the  very  verge  of  writing.  And 
the  thousand  little  puppets  placed  in  the  tombs  to  carry  on  essential  in- 
dustries for  the  dead  were  moulded  with  a  like  vivacity,  so  that  we  can 
almost  believe,  with  the  pious  Egyptian,  that  the  deceased  could  not  be 
unhappy  while  these  ministrants  were  there. 

Not  for  many  centuries  did  Egyptian  sculpture  equal  again  the  achieve- 
ments of  the  early  dynasties.  Because  most  of  the  statuary  was  made  for 
the  temples  or  the  tombs,  the  priests  determined  to  a  great  degree  what 
forms  the  artist  should  follow;  and  the  natural  conservatism  of  religion 
crept  into  art,  slowly  stifling  sculpture  into  a  conventional,  stylistic  de- 
generation. Under  the  powerful  monarchs  of  the  Twelfth  Dynasty  the 
secular  spirit  reasserted  itself,  and  art  recaptured  something  of  its  old  vigor 
and  more  than  its  old  skill.  A  head  of  Amencmhet  III  in  black  diorite1" 
suggests  at  once  the  recovery  of  character  and  the  recovery  of  art;  here 
is  the  quiet  hardness  of  an  able  king,  carved  with  the  competence  of  a 
master.  A  colossal  statue  of  Senusret  III  is  crowned  with  a  head  and  face 

•There  are  important  exceptions  to  this— e.g.,  the  Sheik-el-Beled  and  the  Scribe;  obvi- 
ously the  convention  was  not  due  to  incapacity  or  ignorance. 


equal  in  conception  and  execution  to  any  portrait  in  the  history  of  sculp- 
ture; and  the  ruined  torso  of  Senusret  I,  in  the  Cairo  Museum,  ranks  with 
the  torso  of  Hercules  in  the  Louvre.  Animal  figures  abound  in  the  Egyptian 
sculpture  of  every  age,  and  are  always  full  of  humor  and  life:  here  is  a 
mouse  chewing  a  nut,  an  ape  devotedly  strumming  a  harp,  a  porcupine 
with  every  spine  on  the  qui  vive.  Then  came  the  Shepherd  Kings,  and  for 
three  hundred  years  Egyptian  art  almost  ceased  to  be. 

In  the  age  of  Hatshepsut,  the  Thutmoses,  the  Amenhoteps  and  the 
Rameses,  art  underwent  a  second  resurrection  along  the  Nile.  Wealth 
poured  in  from  subject  Syria,  passed  into  the  temples  and  the  courts,  and 
trickled  through  them  to  nourish  every  art.  Colossi  of  Thutmose  III  and 
Rameses  II  began  to  challenge  the  sky;  statuary  crowded  every  corner  of 
the  temples;  masterpieces  were  flung  forth  with  unprecedented  abundance 
by  a  race  exhilarated  with  what  they  thought  was  world  supremacy.  The 
fine  granite  bust  of  the  great  Queen  in  the  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art 
at  New  York;  the  basalt  statue  of  Thutmose  III  in  the  Cairo  Museum; 
the  lion  sphinx  of  Amenhotep  III  in  the  British  Museum;  the  limestone 
seated  Ikhnaton  in  the  Louvre;  the  granite  statue  of  Rameses  II  in  Turin;* 
the  perfect  crouching  figure  of  the  same  incredible  monarch  making  an 
offering  to  the  gods;100  the  meditative  cow  of  Der-cl-Bahri,  which  Maspero 
considered  "equal,  if  not  superior,  to  the  best  achievements  of  Greece  and 
Rome  in  this  genre";*00  the  two  lions  of  Amenhotep  III,  which  Ruskin 
ranked  as  the  best  animal  statuary  surviving  from  antiquity;201  the  colossi 
cut  into  the  rocks  at  Abu  Simbel  by  the  sculptors  of  Rameses  II;  the  amaz- 
ing remains  found  among  the  ruins  of  the  artist  Thutmose's  studio  at  Tell- 
el-Amarna— a  plaster  model  of  Ikhnaton's  head,  full  of  the  mysticism  and 
poetry  of  that  tragic  king,  the  lovely  limestone  bust  of  Ikhnaton's  Queen, 
Nofretete,  and  the  even  finer  sandstone  head  of  the  same  fair  lady:*2  these 
scattered  examples  may  illustrate  the  sculptural  accomplishments  of  this 
abounding  Empire  age.  Amid  all  these  lofty  masterpieces  humor  continues 
to  find  place;  Egyptian  sculptors  frolic  with  jolly  caricatures  of  men  and 
animals,  and  even  the  kings  and  queens,  in  Ikhnaton's  iconoclastic  age,  are 
made  to  smile  and  play. 

After  Rameses  II  this  magnificence  passed  rapidly  away.  For  many 
centuries  after  him  art  contented  itself  with  repeating  traditional  works 
and  forms.  Under  the  Sa'ite  kings  it  sought  to  rejuvenate  itself  by  return- 

*  One  is  reminded  here  of  the  remark  of  an  Egyptian  statesman,  after  visiting  the 
galleries  of  Europe:  "Que  vous  avez  vott  mon  pays!— How  you  have  raped  my  country!  ""• 


ing  to  the  simplicity  and  sincerity  of  the  Old  Kingdom  masters.  Sculptors 
attacked  bravely  the  hardest  stones— basalt,  breccia,  serpentine,  diorite— 
and  carved  them  into  such  realistic  portraits  as  that  of  Montumihait,908  and 
the  green  basalt  head  of  a  bald  unknown,  now  looking  out  blackly  upon 
the  walls  of  the  State  Museum  at  Berlin.  In  bronze  they  cast  the  lovely 
figure  of  the  lady  Tekoschet.**  Again  they  delighted  in  catching  the 
actual  features  and  movements  of  men  and  beasts;  they  moulded  laughable 
figures  of  quaint  animals,  slaves  and  gods;  and  they  formed  in  bronze  a 
cat  and  a  goat's  head  which  are  among  the  trophies  of  Berlin.206  Then  the 
Persians  came  down  like  a  wolf  on  the  fold,  conquered  Egypt,  desecrated 
its  temples,  broke  its  spirit,  and  put  an  end  to  its  art. 

These— architecture  and  sculpture*— are  the  major  Egyptian  arts;  but 
if  abundance  counted,  bas-relief  would  have  to  be  added  to  them.  No 
other  people  so  tirelessly  carved  its  history  or  legends  upon  its  walls.  At 
first  we  are  shocked  by  the  dull  similarity  of  these  glyptic  narratives,  the 
crowded  confusion,  the  absence  of  proportion  and  perspective— or  the 
ungainly  attempt  to  achieve  this  by  representing  the  far  above  the  near; 
we  are  surprised  to  see  how  tall  the  Pharaoh  is,  and  how  small  are  his 
enemies;  and,  as  in  the  sculpture,  we  find  it  hard  to  adjust  our  pictorial 
habits  to  eyes  and  breasts  that  face  us  boldly,  while  noses,  chins  and  feet 
turn  coldly  away.  But  then  we  find  ourselves  caught  by  the  perfect  line 
and  grace  of  the  falcon  and  serpent  carved  on  King  Wencphcs'  tomb,""* 
by  the  limestone  reliefs  of  King  Zoser  on  the  Step-Pyramid  at  Sakkara, 
by  the  wood7relief  of  Prince  Hesire  from  his  grave  in  the  same  locality,807 
and  by  the  wounded  Libyan  on  a  Fifth  Dynasty  tomb  at  Abusir208— a  patient 
study  of  muscles  taut  in  pain.  At  last  we  bear  with  equanimity  the  long 
reliefs  that  tell  how  Thutmose  III  and  Rameses  II  carried  all  before  them; 
we  recognize  the  perfection  of  flowing  line  in  the  reliefs  carved  for  Seti 
I  at  Abydos  and  Karnak;  and  we  follow  with  interest  the  picturesque  en- 
gravings wherein  the  sculptors  of  Hatshepsut  tell  on  the  walls  of  Der-el- 
Bahri  the  story  of  the  expedition  sent  by  her  to  the  mysterious  land  of 
Punt  (Somaliland?).  We  see  the  long  ships  with  full-spread  sail  and  serried 
oars  heading  south  amid  waters  alive  with  octopi,  Crustacea  and  other 
toilers  of  the  sea;  we  watch  the  fleet  arriving  on  the  shores  of  Punt,  wel- 
comed by  a  startled  but  fascinated  people  and  king;  we  see  the  sailors 

*  Though  the  word  sculpture  includes  all  carved  forms,  we  shall  use  it  as 
especially  sculpture  in  the  round;  and  shall  segregate  under  the  term  bas-relie 
carving  of  forms  upon  a  background.  jv 


carrying  on  board  a  thousand  loads  of  native  delicacies;  we  read  the  jest 
of  the  Punt  workman— "Be  careful  of  your  feet,  you  over  there;  look 
out!"  Then  we  accompany  the  heavy-laden  vessels  as  they  return  north- 
ward filled  (the  inscription  tells  us)  "with  the  marvels  of  the  land  of  Punt, 
all  the  odoriferous  trees  of  the  lands  of  the  gods,  incense,  ebony,  ivory, 
gold,  woods  of  divers  kinds,  cosmetics  for  the  eyes,  monkeys,  dogs,  panther 
skins,  .  .  .  never  have  like  things  been  brought  back  for  any  king  from 
the  beginning  of  the  world."  The  ships  come  through  the  great  canal 
between  the  Red  Sea  and  the  Nile;  we  see  the  expedition  landing  at  the 
docks  of  Thebes,  depositing  its  varied  cargo  at  the  very  feet  of  the  Queen. 
And  lastly  we  are  shown,  as  if  after  the  lapse  of  time,  all  these  imported 
goods  beautifying  Egypt:  on  every  side  ornaments  of  gold  and  ebony, 
boxes  of  perfumes  and  unguents,  elephants'  tusks  and  animals'  hides;  while 
the  trees  brought  back  from  Punt  are  flourishing  so  well  on  the  soil  of 
Thebes  that  under  their  branches  oxen  enjoy  the  shade.  It  is  one  of  the 
supreme  reliefs  in  the  history  of  art.*"* 

Bas-relief  is  a  liaison  between  sculpture  and  painting.  In  Egypt,  except 
during  the  reign  of  the  Ptolemies  and  under  the  influence  of  Greece,  paint- 
ing never  rose  to  the  status  of  an  independent  art;  it  remained  an  accessory 
to  architecture,  sculpture  and  relief —the  painter  filled  in  the  outlines  carved 
by  the  cutting  tool.  But  though  subordinate,  it  was  ubiquitous;  most  statues 
were  painted,  all  surfaces  were  colored.  It  is  an  an  perilously  subject  to 
time,  and  lacking  the  persistence  of  statuary  and  building.  Very  little  re- 
mains to  us  of  Old  Kingdom  painting  beyond  a  remarkable  picture  of  six 
geese  from  a  tomb  at  Medum;910  but  from  this  alone  we  are  justified  in  be- 
lieving that  already  in  the  early  dynasties  this  art,  too,  had  come  near  to 
perfection.  In  the  Middle  Kingdom  we  find  distemper  paintingt  of  a 
delightful  decorative  effect  in  the  tombs  of  Ameni  and  Khnumhotep  at 
Beni-Hasan,  and  such  excellent  examples  of  the  art  as  the  "Gazelles  and 
the  Peasants,"311  and  the  "Cat  Watching  the  Prey";*3  here  again  the  artist 
has  caught  the  main  point— that  his  creations  must  move  and  live.  Under 
the  Empire  the  tombs  became  a  riot  of  painting.  The  Egyptian  artist  had 
now  developed  every  color  in  the  rainbow,  and  was  anxious  to  display  his 
skill.  On  the  walls  and  ceilings  of  homes,  temples,  palaces  and  graves  he 

*  A  cast  of  this  relief  may  be  seen  in  the  Twelfth  Egyptian  Room  of  the  Metropoli- 
tan Museum  of  Art  at  New  York. 

t  Painting  in  which  the  pigments  are  mixed  or  tempered  with  egg-yolk,  size  (diluted 
glue),  or  egg-white. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  191 

tried  to  portray  refreshingly  the  life  of  the  sunny  fields— birds  in  flight 
through  the  air,  fishes  swimming  in  the  sea,  beasts  of  the  jungle  in  their 
native  haunts.  Floors  were  painted  to  look  like  transparent  pools,  and  ceil- 
ings sought  to  rival  the  jewelry  of  the  sky.  Around  these  pictures  were 
borders  of  geometric  or  floral  design,  ranging  from  a  quiet  simplicity  to 
the  most  fascinating  complexity.813  The  "Dancing  Girl,"214  so  full  of  orig 
inality  and  esprit,  the  "Bird  Hunt  in  a  Boat,"215  the  slim,  naked  beauty  in 
ochre,  mingling  with  other  musicians  in  the  Tomb  of  Nakht  at  Thebes21"— 
these  are  stray  samples  of  the  painted  population  of  the  graves.  Here,  as 
in  the  bas-reliefs,  the  line  is  good  and  the  composition  poor;  the  participants 
in  an  action,  whom  we  should  portray  as  intermingled,  are  represented 
separately  in  succession;217  superposition  is  again  preferred  to  perspective; 
the  stiff  formalism  and  conventions  of  Egyptian  sculpture  are  the  order 
of  the  day,  and  do  not  reveal  that  enlivening  humor  and  realism  which 
distinguish  the  later  statuary.  But  through  these  pictures  runs  a  freshness 
of  conception,  a  flow  of  line  and  execution,  a  fidelity  to  the  life  and  move- 
ment of  natural  things,  and  a  joyous  exuberance  of  color  and  ornament, 
which  make  them  a  delight  to  the  eye  and  the  spirit.  With  all  its  short- 
comings Egyptian  painting  would  never  be  surpassed  by  any  Oriental 
civilization  until  the  middle  dynasties  of  China. 

The  minor  arts  were  the  major  art  of  Egypt.  The  same  skill  and  energy 
that  had  built  Karnak  and  the  Pyramids,  and  had  crowded  the  temples 
with  a  populace  of  stone,  devoted  itself  also  to  the  internal  beautification 
of  the  home,  the  adornment  of  the  body,  and  the  development  of  all  the 
graces  of  life.  Weavers  made  rugs,  tapestries  and  cushions  rich  in  color 
and  incredibly  fine  in  texture;  the  designs  which  they  created  passed  down 
into  Syria,  and  are  used  there  to  this  day.21*  The  relics  of  Tutenkhamon's 
tomb  have  revealed  the  astonishing  luxury  of  Egyptian  furniture,  the  ex- 
quisite finish  of  every  piece  and  part,  chairs  covered  gaudily  with  silver 
and  gold,  beds  of  sumptuous  workmanship  and  design,  jewel-boxes  and 
perfume-baskets  of  minute  artistry,  and  vases  that  only  China  would  excel. 
Tables  bore  costly  vessels  of  silver,  gold  and  bronze,  crystal  goblets,  and 
sparkling  bowls  of  diorite  so  finely  ground  that  the  light  shone  through 
their  stone  walls.  The  alabaster  vessels  of  Tutenkhamon,  and  the  perfect 
lotus  cups  and  drinking  bowls  unearthed  amid  the  ruins  of  Amenhotep 
Ill's  villa  at  Thebes,  indicate  to  what  a  high  level  the  ceramic  art  was 
raised.  Finally  the  jewelers  of  the  Middle  Kingdom  and  the  Empire  brought 
forth  a  profusion  of  precious  ornaments  seldom  surpassed  in  design  and 


workmanship.  Necklaces,  crowns,  rings,  bracelets,  mirrors,  pectorals, 
chains,  medallions;  gold  and  silver,  carnelian  and  felspar,  lapis  lazuli  and 
amethyst— everything  is  here.  The  rich  Egyptians  took  the  same  pleasure 
as  the  Japanese  in  the  beauty  of  the  little  things  that  surrounded  them; 
every  square  of  ivory  on  their  jewel-boxes  had  to  be  carved  in  relief  and 
refined  in  precise  detail.  They  dressed  simply,  but  they  lived  completely. 
And  when  their  day's  work  was  done  they  refreshed  themselves  with 
music  softly  played  on  lutes,  harps,  sistrums,  flutes  and  lyres.*  Temples 
and  palaces  had  orchestras  and  choirs,  and  on  the  Pharaoh's  staff  was  a 
"superintendent  of  singing"  who  organized  players  and  musicians  for  the 
entertainment  of  the  king.  There  is  no  trace  of  a  musical  notation  in 
Egypt,  but  this  may  be  merely  a  lacuna  in  the  remains.  Snefrunofr  and 
Re'mery-Ptah  were  the  Carusos  and  De  Reszkes  of  their  day,  and  across 
the  centuries  we  hear  their  boast  that  they  "fulfil  every  wish  of  the  king 
by  their  beautiful  singing."219 

It  is  exceptional  that  their  names  survive,  for  in  most  cases  the  artists 
whose  labors  preserved  the  features  or  memory  of  princes,  priests  and 
kings  had  no  means  of  transmitting  their  own  names  to  posterity.  We  hear 
of  Imhotep,  the  almost  mythical  architect  of  Zoser's  reign;  of  Ineni,  who 
designed  great  buildings  like  Der-el-Bahri  for  Thutmose  I;  of  Puymre 
and  Hapuseneb  and  Senmut,  who  carried  on  the  architectural  enterprises 
of  Queen  Hatshepsut,t  of  the  artist  Thutmose,  in  whose  studio  so  many 
masterpieces  have  been  found;  and  of  Bek,  the  proud  sculptor  who  tells 
us,  in  Gautier's  strain,  that  he  has  saved  Ikhnaton  from  oblivion.*81  Amen- 
hotep  III  had  as  his  chief  architect  another  Amenhotep,  son  of  Hapu;  the 
Pharaoh  placed  almost  limitless  wealth  at  the  disposal  of  his  talents,  and 
this  favored  artist  became  so  famous  that  later  Egypt  worshiped  him  as 
a  god.  For  the  most  part,  however,  the  artist  worked  in  obscurity  and 
poverty,  and  was  ranked  no  higher  than  other  artisans  or  handicraftsmen 
by  the  priests  and  potentates  who  engaged  him. 

Egyptian  religion  cooperated  with  Egyptian  wealth  to  inspire  and  foster 
art,  and  cooperated  with  Egypt's  loss  of  empire  and  affluence  to  ruin  it. 
Religion  offered  motives,  ideas  and  the  inspiration;  but  it  imposed  con- 

*  The  lute  was  made  by  stretching  a  few  strings  along  a  narrow  sounding-board;  the 
sistrum  was  a  group  of  small  discs  shaken  on  wires. 

t  Senmut  was  so  honored  by  his  sovereigns  that  he  said  of  himself:  "I  was  the  greatest 
of  the  great  in  the  whole  land."830  This  is  an  opinion  very  commonly  held,  but  not  tl- 
ways  so  clearly  expressed. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  193 

ventions  and  restraints  which  bound  art  so  completely  to  the  church  that 
when  sincere  religion  died  among  the  artists,  the  arts  that  had  lived  on  it 
died  too.  This  is  the  tragedy  of  almost  every  civilization— that  its  soul  is  in 
its  faith,  and  seldom  survives  philosophy. 

10.  Philosophy 

The  "Instructions  of  Ptah-hotep"-The  "Admonitions  of  Ipuiver" 
—The  "Dialogue  of  a  Misanthrope" -The  Egyptian  Ecclesiastes 

Historians  of  philosophy  have  been  wont  to  begin  their  story  with  the 
Greeks.  The  Hindus,  who  believe  that  they  invented  philosophy,  and  the 
Chinese,  who  believe  that  they  perfected  it,  smile  at  our  provincialism. 
It  may  be  that  we  are  all  mistaken;  for  among  the  most  ancient  fragments 
left  to  us  by  the  Egyptians  are  writings  that  belong,  however  loosely  and 
untechnically,  under  the  rubric  of  moral  philosophy.  The  wisdom  of  the 
Egyptians  was  a  proverb  with  the  Greeks,  who  felt  themselves  children 
beside  this  ancient  race.*" 

The  oldest  work  of  philosophy  known  to  us  is  the  "Instructions  of  Ptah- 
hotep,"  which  apparently  goes  back  to  2880  B.C.— 2300  years  before  Con- 
fucius, Socrates  and  Buddha.**  Ptah-hotep  was  Governor  of  Memphis,  and 
Prime  Minister  to  the  King,  under  the  Fifth  Dynasty.  Retiring  from  office, 
he  decided  to  leave  to  his  son  a  manual  of  everlasting  wisdom.  It  was 
transcribed  as  an  antique  classic  by  some  scholars  prior  to  the  Eighteenth 
Dynasty.  The  Vizier  begins: 

O  Prince  my  Lord,  the  end  of  life  is  at  hand;  old  age  descendeth 
upon  me;  feebleness  cometh  and  childishness  is  renewed;  he  that  is 
old  lieth  down  in  misery  every  day.  The  eyes  are  small,  the  ears  are 
deaf.  Energy  is  diminished,  the  heart  hath  no  rest.  .  .  .  Command  thy 
servant,  therefore,  to  make  over  my  princely  authority  to  my  son. 
Let  me  speak  unto  him  the  words  of  them  that  hearken  to  the  coun- 
sel of  the  men  of  old  time,  those  that  once  heard  the  gods.  I  pray 
thee,  let  this  thing  be  done. 

His  Gracious  Majesty  grants  the  permission,  advising  him,  however,  to 
"discourse  without  causing  weariness"— advice  not  yet  superfluous  for 
philosophers.  Whereupon  Ptah-hotep  instructs  his  son: 

Be  not  proud  because  thou  art  learned;  but  discourse  with  the  ig- 
"  norant  man  as  with  the  sage.  For  no  limit  can  be  set  to  skill,  neither 


is  there  any  craftsman  that  possessed!  full  advantages.  Fair  speech  is 
more  rare  than  the  emerald  that  is  found  by  slave-maidens  among  the 
pebbles.  .  .  .  Live,  therefore,  in  the  house  of  kindliness,  and  men  shall 
come  and  give  gifts  of  themselves.  .  .  .  Beware  of  making  enmity  by 
thy  words.  .  .  .  Overstep  not  the  truth,  neither  repeat  that  which 
any  man,  be  he  prince  or  peasant,  saith  in  opening  the  heart;  it  is 
abhorrent  to  the  soul.  .  .  . 

If  thou  wouldst  be  a  wise  man,  beget  a  son  for  the  pleasing  of  the 
god.  If  he  make  straight  his  course  after  thine  example,  if  he  ar- 
range thine  affairs  in  due  order,  do  all  unto  him  that  is  good. 
...  If  he  be  heedless  and  trespass  thy  rules  of  conduct,  and  is  vio- 
lent; if  every  speech  that  cometh  from  his  mouth  is  a  vile  word; 
then  beat  thou  him,  that  his  talk  may  be  fitting.  .  .  .  Precious  to  a 
man  is  the  virtue  of  his  son,  and  good  character  is  a  thing  remem- 
bered. .  .  . 

Wheresover  thou  goest,  beware  of  consorting  with  women.  .  .  . 
If  thou  wouldst  be  wise,  provide  for  thine  house,  and  love  thy  wife 
that  is  in  thine  arms.  .  .  .  Silence  is  more  profitable  to  thee  than 
abundance  of  speech.  Consider  how  thou  mayest  be  opposed  by  an 
expert  that  speaketh  in  council.  It  is  a  foolish  thing  to  speak  on 
every  kind  of  work.  .  .  . 

If  thou  be  powerful  make  thyself  to  be  honored  for  knowledge 
and  for  gentleness.  .  .  .  Beware  of  interruption,  and  of  answering 
words  with  heat;  put  it  from  thee;  control  thyself. 

And  Ptah-hotep  concludes  with  Horatian  pride: 

Nor  shall  any  word  that  hath  here  been  set  down  cease  out  of  this 
land  forever,  but  shall  be  made  a  pattern  whereby  princes  shall  speak 
well.  My  words  shall  instruct  a  man  how  he  shall  speak;  .  .  .  yea,  he 
shall  become  as  one  skilful  in  obeying,  excellent  in  speaking.  Good 
fortune  shall  befall  him;  ...  he  shall  be  gracious  until  the  end  of  his 
life;  he  shall  be  contented  always."* 

This  note  of  good  cheer  does  not  persist  in  Egyptian  thought;  age  comes 
upon  it  quickly,  and  sours  it.  Another  sage,  Ipuwer,  bemoans  the  disorder, 
violence,  famine  and  decay  that  attended  the  passing  of  the  Old  Kingdom; 
he  tells  of  sceptics  who  "would  make  offerings  if"  they  "knew  where  the 
god  is";  he  comments  upon  increasing  suicide,  and  adds,  like  another 
Schopenhauer:  "Would  that  there  might  be  an  end  of  men,  that  there 

CHAP.  VIH)  EGYPT  195 

might  be  no  conception,  no  birth.  If  the  land  would  but  cease  from  noise, 
and  strife  be  no  more"— it  is  clear  that  Ipuwer  was  tired  and  old.  In  the 
end  he  dreams  of  a  philosopher-king  who  will  redeem  men  from  chaos 
and  injustice: 

He  brings  cooling  to  the  flame  (of  the  social  conflagration?).  It  is 
said  he  is  the  shepherd  of  all  men.  There  is  no  evil  in  his  heart. 
When  his  herds  are  few  he  passes  the  day  to  gather  them  together, 
their  hearts  being  fevered.  Would  that  he  had  discerned  their  char- 
acter in  the  first  generation.  Then  would  he  have  smitten  evil.  He 
would  have  stretched  forth  his  arm  against  it.  He  would  have 
smitten  the  seed  thereof  and  their  inheritance.  .  .  .  Where  is  he  to- 
day? Doth  he  sleep  perchance?  Behold,  his  might  is  not  seen.1* 

This  already  is  the  voice  of  the  prophets;  the  lines  are  cast  into  strophic 
form,  like  the  prophetic  writings  of  the  Jews;  and  Breasted  properly 
acclaims  these  "Admonitions"  as  "the  earliest  emergence  of  a  social  idealism 
which  among  the  Hebrews  we  call  'Messianism.'  """  Another  scroll  from 
the  Middle  Kingdom  denounces  the  corruption  of  the  age  in  words  that 
almost  every  generation  hears: 

To  whom  do  I  speak  today? 

Brothers  are  evil, 

Friends  of  today  are  not  of  love. 

To  whom  do  I  speak  today? 

Hearts  are  thievish, 

Every  man  seizes  his  neighbor's  goods. 
To  whom  do  I  speak  today? 
The  gentle  man  perishes, 
The  bold-faced  goes  everywhere.  .  .  . 

To  whom  do  I  speak  today? 

When  a  man  should  arouse  wrath  by  his  evil  conduct 

He  stirs  all  men  to  mirth,  although  his  iniquity  is  wicked.  .  .  . 

And  then  this  Egyptian  Swinburne  pours  out  a  lovely  eulogy  of  death: 

Death  is  before  me  today 

Like  the  recovery  of  a  sick  man, 

Like  going  forth  into  a  garden  after  sickness. 

Death  is  before  me  today 

Like  the  odor  of  myrrh, 

Like  sitting  under  die  sail  on  a  windy  day. 


Death  is  before  me  today 

Like  the  odor  of  lotus-flowers, 

Like  sitting  on  the  shore  of  drunkenness. 

Death  is  before  me  today 

Like  the  course  of  a  freshet, 

Like  the  return  of  a  man  from  the  war-galley  to  his  house.  .  . . 
Death  is  before  me  today 
As  a  man  longs  to  see  his  home 
When  he  had  spent  years  of  captivity.**1 

Saddest  of  all  is  a  poem  engraved  upon  a  slab  now  in  the  Leyden 
Museum,  and  dating  back  to  2200  B.C.  Carpe  diem,  it  sings— snatch  the  day! 

I  have  heard  the  words  of  Imhotep  and  Hardedef, 
Words  greatly  celebrated  as  their  utterances. 
Behold  the  places  thereof!— 
Their  walls  are  dismantled, 
Their  places  are  no  more, 
As  if  they  had  never  been. 

None  cometh  from  thence 

That  he  may  tell  us  how  they  fare; . .  . 

That  he  may  content  our  hearts 

Until  we  too  depart 

To  the  place  whither  they  have  gone. 

Encourage  thy  heart  to  forget  it, 

Making  it  pleasant  for  thee  to  follow  thy  desire 

While  thou  livest. 

Put  myrrh  upon  thy  head, 

And  garments  upon  thee  of  fine  linen, 

Imbued  with  marvelous  luxuries, 

The  genuine  things  of  the  gods. 

Increase  yet  more  thy  delights, 

And  let  not  thy  heart  languish. 

Follow  thy  desire  and  thy  good, 

Fashion  thy  affairs  on  earth 

After  the  mandates  of  thine  own  heart, 

Till  that  day  of  lamentation  come  to  thee 

When  the  silent-hearted  (dead)  hears  not  their  lamentation, 

Nor  he  that  is  in  the  tomb  attends  the  mourning. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  197 

Celebrate  the  glad  day; 

Be  not  weary  therein. 

Lo,  no  man  taketh  his  goods  with  him; 

Yea,  none  returneth  again  that  is  gone  thither."" 

This  pessimism  and  scepticism  were  the  result,  it  may  be,  of  the  broken 
spirit  of  a  nation  humiliated  and  subjected  by  the  Hyksos  invaders;  they 
bear  the  same  relation  to  Egypt  that  Stoicism  and  Epicureanism  bear  to 
a  defeated  and  enslaved  Greece.*  In  part  such  literature  represents  one 
of  those  interludes,  like  our  own  moral  interregnum,  in  which  thought 
has  for  a  time  overcome  belief,  and  men  no  longer  know  how  or  why  they 
should  live.  Such  periods  do  not  endure;  hope  soon  wins  the  victory  over 
thought;  the  intellect  is  put  down  to  its  customary  menial  place,  and 
religion  is  born  again,  giving  to  men  the  imaginative  stimulus  apparently 
indispensable  to  life  and  work.  We  need  not  suppose  that  such  poems 
expressed  the  views  of  any  large  number  of  Egyptians;  behind  and  around 
the  small  but  vital  minority  that  pondered  the  problems  of  life  and  death 
in  secular  and  naturalistic  terms  were  millions  of  simple  men  and  women 
who  remained  faithful  to  the  gods,  and  never  doubted  that  right  would 
triumph,  that  every  earthly  pain  and  grief  would  be  atoned  for  bountifully 
in  a  haven  of  happiness  and  peace. 

11.  Religion 

Sky  gods— The  sun  god— Plant  gods— Animal  gods— Sex  gods- 
Human  gods— Osiris— Isis  and  Horus— Minor  deities— The 
priests-Immortality— The  "Book  of  the  Dead"-The 
"Negative  Confession"— Magic— Corruption 

For  beneath  and  above  everything  in  Egypt  was  religion.  We  find  it 
there  in  every  stage  and  form  from  totemism  to  theology;  we  see  its  in- 
fluence in  literature,  in  government,  in  art,  in  everything  except  morality. 
And  it  is  not  only  varied,  it  is  tropically  abundant;  only  in  Rome  and 
India  shall  we  find  so  plentiful  a  pantheon.  We  cannot  understand  the 
Egyptian— or  man— until  we  study  his  gods. 

In  the  beginning,  said  the  Egyptian,  was  the  sky;  and  to  the  end  this  and 
the  Nile  remained  his  chief  divinities.  All  these  marvelous  heavenly  bodies 
were  not  mere  bodies,  they  were  the  external  forms  of  mighty  spirits, 

*  "Civil  war,"  says  Ipuwer,  "pays  no  revenues."1" 


gods  whose  wills—not  always  concordant— ordained  their  complex  and 
varied  movements.**  The  sky  itself  was  a  vault,  across  whose  vastness  a 
great  cow  stood,  who  was  the  goddess  Hathor;  the  earth  lay  beneath  her 
feet,  and  her  belly  was  clad  in  the  beauty  of  ten  thousand  stars.  Or  (for 
the  gods  and  myths  differed  from  nome  to  nome)  the  sky  was  the  god 
Sibu,  lying  tenderly  upon  the  earth,  which  was  the  goddess  Nuit;  from 
their  gigantic  copulation  all  things  had  been  born."0  Constellations  and 
stars  might  be  gods:  for  example,  Sahu  and  Sopdit  (Orion  and  Sirius)  were 
tremendous  deities;  Sahu  ate  gods  three  times  a  day  regularly.  Occasionally 
some  such  monster  ate  the  moon,  but  only  for  a  moment;  soon  the  prayers 
of  men  and  the  anger  of  the  other  gods  forced  the  greedy  sow  to  vomit 
it  up  again.*1  In  this  manner  the  Egyptian  populace  explained  an  eclipse 
of  the  moon. 

The  moon  was  a  god,  perhaps  the  oldest  of  all  that  were  worshiped 
in  Egypt;  but  in  the  official  theology  the  greatest  of  the  gods  was  the  sun. 
Sometimes  it  was  worshiped  as  the  supreme  deity  Ra  or  Re,  the  bright 
father  who  fertilized  Mother  Earth  with  rays  of  penetrating  heat  and 
light;  sometimes  it  was  a  divine  calf,  born  anew  at  every  dawn,  sailing  the 
sky  slowly  in  a  celestial  boat,  and  descending  into  the  west,  at  evening, 
like  an  old  man  tottering  to  his  grave.  Or  the  sun  was  the  god  Horus, 
taking  the  graceful  form  of  a  falcon,  flying  majestically  across  the  heavens 
day  after  day  as  if  in  supervision  of  his  realm,  and  becoming  one  of  the 
recurrent  symbols  of  Egyptian  religion  and  royalty.  Always  Ra,  or  the 
sun,  was  the  Creator:  at  his  first  rising,  seeing  the  earth  desert  and  bare, 
he  had  flooded  it  with  his  energizing  rays,  and  all  living  things— vegetable, 
animal  and  human—  had  sprung  pell-mell  from  his  eyes,  and  been  scattered 
over  the  world.  The  earliest  men  and  women,  being  direct  children  of  Ra, 
had  been  perfect  and  happy;  by  degrees  their  descendants  had  taken  to 
evil  ways,  and  had  forfeited  this  perfection  and  happiness;  whereupon 
Ra,  dissatisfied  with  his  creatures,  had  destroyed  a  large  part  of  the  human 
race.  Learned  Egyptians  questioned  this  popular  belief,  and  asserted  on 
the  contrary  (like  certain  Sumerian  scholars),  that  the  first  men  had  been 
like  brutes,  without  articulate  speech  or  any  of  the  arts  of  life.*8  All  in 
all  it  was  an  intelligent  mythology,  expressing  piously  man's  gratitude  to 
earth  and  sun. 

So  exuberant  was  this  piety  that  the  Egyptians  worshiped  not  merely 
the  source,  but  almost  every  form,  of  life.  Many  plants  were  sacred  to 
them:  the  palm-tree  that  shaded  them  amid  the  desert,  the  spring  that 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  1 99 

gave  them  drink  in  the  oasis,  the  grove  where  they  could  meet  and  rest, 
the  sycamore  flourishing  miraculously  in  the  sand;  these  were,  with  ex- 
cellent reason,  holy  things,  and  to  the  end  of  his  civilization  the  simple 
Egyptian  brought  them  offerings  of  cucumbers,  grapes  and  figs.**  Even 
the  lowly  vegetable  found  its  devotees;  and  Taine  amused  himself  by 
showing  how  the  onion  that  so  displeased  Bossuet  had  been  a  divinity  on 
the  banks  of  the  Nile.884 

More  popular  were  the  animal  gods;  they  were  so  numerous  that  they 
filled  the  Egyptian  pantheon  like  a  chattering  menagerie.  In  one  nome  or 
another,  in  one  period  or  another,  Egyptians  worshiped  the  bull,  the  croco- 
dile, the  hawk,  the  cow,  the  goose,  the  goat,  the  ram,  the  cat,  the  dog, 
the  chicken,  the  swallow,  the  jackal,  the  serpent,  and  allowed  some  of 
these  creatures  to  roam  in  the  temples  with  the  same  freedom  that  is 
accorded  to  the  sacred  cow  in  India  today.*5  When  the  gods  became 
human  they  still  retained  animal  doubles  and  symbols:  Amon  was  repre- 
sented as  a  goose  or  a  ram,  Ra  as  a  grasshopper  or  a  bull,  Osiris  as  a  bull 
or  a  ram,  Sebek  as  a  crocodile,  Horus  as  a  hawk  or  falcon,  Hathor  as  a 
cow,  and  Thoth,  the  god  of  wisdom,  as  a  baboon.888  Sometimes  women 
were  offered  to  certain  of  these  animals  as  sexual  mates;  the  bull  in  par- 
ticular, as  the  incarnation  of  Osiris,  received  this  honor;  and  at  Mendes, 
says  Plutarch,  the  most  beautiful  women  were  offered  in  coitus  to  the 
divine  goat.837  From  beginning  to  end  this  totemism  remained  as  an  essential 
and  native  element  in  Egyptian  religion;  human  gods  came  to  Egypt 
much  later,  and  probably  as  gifts  from  western  Asia.888 

The  goat  and  the  bull  were  especially  sacred  to  the  Egyptians  as  repre- 
senting sexual  creative  power;  they  were  not  merely  symbols  of  Osiris, 
but  incarnations  of  him.889  Often  Osiris  was  depicted  with  large  and  prom- 
inent organs,  as  a  mark  of  his  supreme  power;  and  models  of  him  in  this 
form,  or  with  a  triple  phallus,  were  borne  in  religious  processions  by  the 
Egyptians;  on  certain  occasions  the  women  carried  such  phallic  images, 
and  operated  them  mechanically  with  strings.840*  Signs  of  sex  worship 
appear  not  only  in  the  many  cases  in  which  figures  are  depicted,  on  temple 
reliefs,  with  erect  organs,  but  in  the  frequent  appearance,  in  Egyptian 
symbolism,  of  the  crux  ansata—z  cross  with  a  handle,  as  a  sign  of  sexual 
union  and  vigorous  life.841 

At  last  the  gods  became  human— or  rather,  men  became  gods.  Like  the 

*The  curious  reader  will  find  again  a  similar  custom  in  India;  cf.  Dubois,  Hindu 
Manners,  Customs  and  Ceremonies,  Oxford,  1928,  p.  595. 


deities  of  Greece,  the  personal  gods  of  Egypt  were  merely  superior  men 
and  women,  made  in  heroic  mould,  but  composed  of  bone  and  muscle, 
flesh  and  blood;  they  hungered  and  ate,  thirsted  and  drank,  loved  and 
mated,  hated  and  killed,  grew  old  and  died.*'  There  was  Osiris,  for  ex- 
ample, god  of  the  beneficent  Nile,  whose  death  and  resurrection  were 
celebrated  yearly  as  symbolizing  the  fall  and  rise  of  the  river,  and  perhaps 
the  decay  and  growth  of  the  soil.  Every  Egyptian  of  the  later  dynasties 
could  tell  the  story  of  how  Set  (or  Sit),  the  wicked  god  of  desiccation, 
who  shriveled  up  harvests  with  his  burning  breath,  was  angered  at  Osiris 
(the  Nile)  for  extending  (with  his  overflow)  the  fertility  of  the  earth, 
slew  him,  and  reigned  in  dry  majesty  over  Osiris'  kingdom  (i.e.,  the  river 
once  failed  to  rise),  until  Horus,  brave  son  of  Isis,  overcame  Set  and 
banished  him;  whereafter  Osiris,  brought  back  to  life  by  the  warmth 
of  Isis'  love,  ruled  benevolently  over  Egypt,  suppressed  cannibalism,  estab- 
lished civilization,  and  then  ascended  to  heaven  to  reign  there  endlessly 
as  a  god.""  It  was  a  profound  myth;  for  history,  like  Oriental  religion,  is 
dualistic— a  record  of  the  conflict  between  creation  and  destruction,  fer- 
tility and  desiccation,  rejuvenation  and  exhaustion,  good  and  evil,  life  and 

Profound,  too,  was  the  myth  of  Isis,  the  Great  Mother.  She  was  not 
only  the  loyal  sister  and  wife  of  Osiris;  in  a  sense  she  was  greater  than  he, 
for— like  woman  in  general— she  had  conquered  death  through  love.  Nor 
was  she  merely  the  black  soil  of  the  Delta,  fertilized  by  the  touch  of 
Osiris-Nile,  and  making  all  Egypt  rich  with  her  fecundity.  She  was,  above 
all,  the  symbol  of  that  mysterious  creative  power  which  had  produced  the 
earth  and  every  living  thing,  and  of  that  maternal  tenderness  whereby,  at 
whatever  cost  to  the  mother,  the  young  new  life  is  nurtured  to  maturity. 
She  represented  in  Egypt—as  Kali,  Ishtar  and  Cybele  represented  in 
Asia,  Demeter  in  Greece,  and  Ceres  in  Rome— the  original  priority  and 
independence  of  the  female  principle  in  creation  and  in  inheritance,  and 
the  originative  leadership  of  woman  in  tilling  the  earth;  for  it  was  Isis 
(said  the  myth)  who  had  discovered  wheat  and  barley  growing  wild  in 
Egypt,  and  had  revealed  them  to  Osiris  (man).844  The  Egyptians  wor- 
shiped her  with  especial  fondness  and  piety,  and  raised  up  jeweled  images 
to  her  as  the  Mother  of  God;  her  tonsured  priests  praised  her  in  sonorous 
matins  and  vespers;  and  in  midwinter  of  each  year,  coincident  with  the 
annual  rebirth  of  the  sun  towards  the  end  of  our  December,  the  temples 


of  her  divine  child,  Horus  (god  of  the  sun),  showed  her,  in  holy  effigy, 
nursing  in  a  stable  the  babe  that  she  had  miraculously  conceived.  These 
poetic-philosophic  legends  and  symbols  profoundly  affected  Christian 
ritual  and  theology.  Early  Christians  sometimes  worshiped  before  the 
statues  of  Isis  suckling  the  infant  Horus,  seeing  in  them  another  form  of 
the  ancient  and  noble  myth  by  which  woman  (i.e.,  the  female  principle), 
creating  all  things,  becomes  at  last  the  Mother  of  God.14" 

These— Ra  (or,  as  he  was  called  in  the  South,  Amon),  Osiris,  Isis  and 
Horus— were  the  greater  gods  of  Egypt.  In  later  days  Ra,  Amon  and 
another  god,  Ptah,  were  combined  as  three  embodiments  or  aspects  of  one 
supreme  and  triune  deity ,Mfl  There  were  countless  lesser  divinities:  Anubis 
the  jackal,  Shu,  Tefnut,  Ncphthys,  Ket,  Nut;  .  .  .  but  we  must  not  make 
these  pages  a  museum  of  dead  gods.  Even  Pharaoh  was  a  god,  always  the 
son  of  Amon-Ra,  ruling  not  merely  by  divine  right  but  by  divine  birth, 
as  a  deity  transiently  tolerating  the  earth  as  his  home.  On  his  head  was 
the  falcon,  symbol  of  Horus  and  totem  of  the  tribe;  from  his  forehead  rose 
the  ur^eus  or  serpent,  symbol  of  wisdom  and  life,  and  communicating  magic 
virtues  to  the  crown.2"7  The  king  was  chief -priest  of  the  faith,  and  led  the 
great  processions  and  ceremonies  that  celebrated  the  festivals  of  the  gods. 
It  was  through  this  assumption  of  divine  lineage  and  powers  that  he  was 
able  to  rule  so  long  with  so  little  force. 

Hence  the  priests  of  Egypt  were  the  necessary  props  of  the  throne, 
and  the  secret  police  of  the  social  order.  Given  a  faith  of  such  complexity, 
a  class  had  to  arise  adept  in  magic  and  ritual,  whose  skill  would  make  it 
indispensable  in  approaching  the  gods.  In  effect,  though  not  in  law,  the 
office  of  priest  passed  down  from  father  to  son,  and  a  class  grew  up 
which,  through  the  piety  of  the  people  and  the  politic  generosity  of  the 
kings,  became  in  time  richer  and  stronger  than  the  feudal  aristocracy  or 
the  royal  family  itself.  The  sacrifices  offered  to  the  gods  supplied  the 
priests  with  food  and  drink;  the  temple  buildings  gave  them  spacious 
homes;  the  revenues  of  temple  lands  and  services  furnished  them  with 
ample  incomes;  and  their  exemption  from  forced  labor,  military  service, 
and  ordinary  taxation,  left  them  in  an  enviable  position  of  prestige  and 
power.  They  deserved  not  a  little  of  this  power,  for  they  accumulated 
and  preserved  the  learning  of  Egypt,  educated  the  youth,  and  disciplined 
themselves  with  rigor  and  zeal.  Herodotus  describes  them  almost  with 


They  are  of  all  men  the  most  excessively  attentive  to  the  worship 
of  the  gods,  and  observe  the  following  ceremonies.  .  .  .  They  wear 
linen  garments,  constantly  fresh-washed.  .  .  .  They  are  circumcised 
for  the  sake  of  cleanliness,  thinking  it  better  to  be  clean  than  hand- 
some. They  shave  their  whole  body  every  third  day,  that  neither 
lice  nor  any  other  impurity  may  be  found  upon  them.  .  .  .  They 
wash  themselves  in  cold  water  twice  every  day  and  twice  every 

What  distinguished  this  religion  above  everything  else  was  its  emphasis 
on  immortality.  If  Osiris,  the  Nile,  and  all  vegetation,  might  rise  again, 
so  might  man.  The  amazing  preservation  of  the  dead  body  in  the  dry  soil 
of  Egypt  lent  some  encouragement  to  this  belief,  which  was  to  dominate 
Egyptian  faith  for  thousands  of  years,  and  to  pass  from  it,  by  its  own 
resurrection,  into  Christianity .""  The  body,  Egypt  believed,  was  inhabited 
by  a  small  replica  of  itself  called  the  ka,  and  also  by  a  soul  that  dwelr  in 
the  body  like  a  bird  flitting  among  trees.  All  of  these-body,  ka  and  soul- 
survived  the  appearance  of  death;  they  could  escape  mortality  for  a  time 
in  proportion  as  the  flesh  was  preserved  from  decay;  but  if  they  came  to 
Osiris  clean  of  all  sin  they  would  be  permitted  to  live  forever  in  the 
"Happy  Field  of  Food"— those  heavenly  gardens  where  there  would 
always  be  abundance  and  security:  judge  the  harassed  penury  that  spoke 
in  this  consoling  dream.  These  Elysian  Fields,  however,  could  be  reached 
only  through  the  services  of  a  ferryman,  an  Egyptian  prototype  of  Charon; 
and  this  old  gentleman  would  receive  into  his  boat  only  such  men  and 
women  as  had  done  no  evil  in  their  lives.  Or  Osiris  would  question  the 
dead,  weighing  each  candidate's  heart  in  the  scale  against  a  feather  to  test 
his  truthfulness.  Those  who  failed  in  this  final  examination  would  be 
condemned  to  lie  forever  in  their  tombs,  hungering  and  thirsting,  fed  upon 
by  hideous  crocodiles,  and  never  coming  forth  to  see  the  sun. 

According  to  the  priests  there  were  clever  ways  of  passing  these  tests; 
and  they  offered  to  reveal  these  ways  for  a  consideration.  One  was  to  fit 
up  the  tomb  with  food,  drink  and  servants  to  nourish  and  help  the  dead. 
Another  was  to  fill  the  tomb  with  talismans  pleasing  to  the  gods:  fish, 
vultures,  snakes,  above  all,  the  scarab-a  beetle  which,  because  it  repro- 
duced itself  apparently  with  fertilization,  typified  the  resurrected  soul; 
if  these  were  properly  blessed  by  a  priest  they  would  frighten  away  every 
assailant,  and  annihilate  every  evil.  A  still  better  way  was  to  buy  the 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  203 

Book  of  the  Dead*  scrolls  for  which  the  priests  had  written  prayers,  for- 
mulas and  charms  calculated  to  appease,  even  to  deceive,  Osiris.  When, 
after  a  hundred  vicissitudes  and  perils,  the  dead  soul  at  last  reached  Osiris, 
it  was  to  address  the  great  Judge  in  some  such  manner  as  this: 

O  Thou  who  speedest  Time's  advancing  wing, 
Thou  dweller  in  all  mysteries  of  life, 
Thou  guardian  of  every  word  I  speak— 
Behold,  Thou  art  ashamed  of  me,  thy  son; 
Thy  heart  is  full  of  sorrow  and  of  shame, 
For  that  my  sins  were  grievous  in  the  world, 
And  proud  my  wickedness  and  my  transgression. 
Oh,  be  at  peace  with  me,  oh,  be  at  peace, 
And  break  the  barriers  that  loom  between  us! 
Let  all  my  sins  be  washed  away  and  fall 
Forgotten  to  the  right  and  left  of  thee! 
Yea,  do  away  with  all  my  wickedness, 
And  put  away  the  shame  that  fills  thy  heart, 
That  Thou  and  I  henceforth  may  be  at  peace."1 

Or  the  soul  was  to  declare  its  innocence  of  all  major  sins,  in  a  "Negative 
Confession"  that  represents  for  us  one  of  the  earliest  and  noblest  expressions 
of  the  moral  sense  in  man: 

Hail  to  Thee,  Great  God,  Lord  of  Truth  and  Justice!  I  have 
come  before  Thee,  my  Master;  I  have  been  brought  to  see  thy 
beauties.  ...  I  bring  unto  you  Truth.  ...  I  have  not  committed  in- 
iquity against  men.  I  have  not  oppressed  the  poor.  ...  I  have  not 
laid  labor  upon  any  free  man  beyond  that  which  he  wrought  for 
himself.  ...  I  have  not  defaulted,  I  have  not  committed  that  which 
is  an  abomination  to  the  gods.  I  have  not  caused  the  slave  to  be  ill- 
treated  of  his  master.  I  have  not  starved  any  man,  I  have  not  made 
any  to  weep,  I  have  not  assassinated  any  man,  ...  I  have  not  com- 
mitted treason  against  any.  I  have  not  in  aught  diminished  the  sup- 

*  A  modern  title  given  by  Lcpsius  to  some  two  thousand  papyrus  rolls  found  in  vari- 
ous tombs,  and  distinguished  by  containing  formulas  to  guide  the  dead.  The  Egyptian 
title  is  Coming  Forth  (from  death)  by  Day.  They  date  from  the  Pyramids,  but  some 
are  even  older.  The  Egyptians  believed  that  these  texts  had  been  composed  by  the  god 
of  wisdom,  Thoth;  chapter  Ixiv  announced  that  the  book  had  been  found  at  Heliopolis, 
and  was  "in  the  very  handwriting  of  the  god."880  Josiah  made  a  similar  discovery  among 
the  Jews;  cf.  Chap,  xii,  §v  below. 


plies  of  the  temple;  I  have  not  spoiled  the  show-bread  of  the  gods. 
...  I  have  done  no  carnal  act  within  the  sacred  enclosure  of  the 
temple.  I  have  not  blasphemed.  ...  I  have  not  falsified  the  balance. 
I  have  not  taken  away  milk  from  the  mouths  of  sucklings.  I  have  .  .  . 
not  taken  with  nets  the  birds  of  the  gods  ...  I  am  pure.  I  am  pure. 
I  am  pure.*"1 

For  the  most  part,  however,  Egyptian  religion  had  little  to  say  about 
morality;  the  priests  were  busier  selling  charms,  mumbling  incantations, 
and  performing  magic  rites  than  inculcating  ethical  precepts.  Even  the 
Book  of  the  Dead  teaches  the  faithful  that  charms  blessed  by  the  clergy 
will  overcome  all  the  obstacles  that  the  deceased  soul  may  encounter  on 
its  way  to  salvation;  and  the  emphasis  is  rather  on  reciting  the  prayers 
than  on  living  the  good  life.  Says  one  roll:  "If  this  can  be  known  by 
the  deceased  he  shall  come  forth  by  day"— i.e.,  rise  to  eternal  life.  Amulets 
and  incantations  were  designed  and  sold  to  cover  a  multitude  of  sins  and 
secure  the  entrance  of  the  Devil  himself  into  Paradise.  At  every  step  the 
pious  Egyptian  had  to  mutter  strange  formulas  to  avert  evil  and  attract 
the  good.  Hear,  for  example,  an  anxious  mother  trying  to  drive  out 
"demons"  from  her  child: 

Run  out,  thou  who  comest  in  darkness,  who  enterest  in  stealth. 
.  .  .  Comest  thou  to  kiss  this  child?  I  will  not  let  thce  kiss  him. 
.  .  .  Comest  thou  to  take  him  away?  1  will  not  let  thee  take  him 
away  from  me.  1  have  made  his  protection  against  thee  out  of 
Efet-hcrb,  which  makes  pain;  out  of  onions,  which  harm  thee;  out 
of  honey,  which  is  sweet  to  the  living  and  bitter  to  the  dead;  out 
of  the  evil  parts  of  the  Ebdu  fish;  out  of  the  backbone  of  the 

The  gods  themselves  used  magic  and  charms  against  one  another.  The 
literature  of  Egypt  is  full  of  magicians— of  wizards  who  dry  up  lakes  with 
a  word,  or  cause  severed  limbs  to  jump  back  into  place,  or  raise  the  dead.354 
The  king  had  magicians  to  help  or  guide  him;  and  he  himself  was  believed 
to  have  a  magical  power  to  make  the  rain  fall,  or  the  river  rise."56  Life  was 
full  of  talismans,  spells,  divinations;  every  door  had  to  have  a  god  to 
frighten  away  evil  spirits  or  fortuitous  strokes  of  bad  luck.  Children  born 
on  the  twenty-third  of  the  month  of  Thoth  would  surely  die  soon;  those 
born  on  the  twentieth  of  Choiakh  would  go  blind.300  "Each  day  and 


month,"  says  Herodotus,  "is  assigned  to  some  particular  god;  and  accord- 
ing to  the  day  on  which  each  person  is  born,  they  determine  what  will 
befall  him,  how  he  will  die,  and  what  kind  of  person  he  will  be."807  In 
the  end  the  connection  between  morality  and  religion  tended  to  be  for- 
gotten; the  road  to  eternal  bliss  led  not  through  a  good  life,  but  through 
magic,  ritual,  and  generosity  to  the  priests.  Let  a  great  Egyptologist  ex- 
press the  matter: 

The  dangers  of  the  hereafter  were  now  greatly  multiplied,  and 
for  every  critical  situation  the  priest  was  able  to  furnish  the  dead 
with  an  effective  charm  which  would  infallibly  cure  him.  Besides 
many  charms  which  enabled  the  dead  to  reach  the  world  of  the 
hereafter,  there  were  those  which  prevented  him  from  losing  his 
mouth,  his  head,  his  heart;  others  which  enabled  him  to  remember 
his  name,  to  breathe,  eat,  drink,  avoid  eating  his  own  foulness,  to 
prevent  his  drinking-water  from  turning  into  flame,  to  turn  dark- 
ness into  light,  to  ward  off  all  serpents  and  other  hostile  monsters, 
and  many  others.  .  .  .  Thus  the  earliest  moral  development  which 
we  can  trace  in  the  ancient  East  was  suddenly  arrested,  or  at  least 
checked,  by  the  detestable  devices  of  a  corrupt  priesthood  eager 
for  gain.858 

Such  was  the  state  of  religion  in  Egypt  when  Ikhnaton,  poet  and  heretic, 
came  to  the  throne,  and  inaugurated  the  religious  revolution  that  destroyed 
the  Empire  of  Egypt. 


The  character  of  Ikhnaton— The  new  religion— A  hymn  to  the 
sun  —  Monotheis?n  —  The  new  dogma  —  The  new  art  —  Re- 
action—N  of  retete— Break-up  of  the  Empire— Death  of 

In  the  year  1380  B.C.  Amenhotep  III,  who  had  succeeded  Thutmose 
III,  died  after  a  life  of  wordly  luxury  and  display,  and  was  followed  by 
his  son  Amenhotep  IV,  destined  to  be  known  as  Ikhnaton.  A  profoundly 
revealing  portrait-bust  of  him,  discovered  at  Tell-el-Amarna,  shows  a 
profile  of  incredible  delicacy,  a  face  feminine  in  softness  and  poetic  in 
its  sensitivity.  Large  eyelids  like  a  dreamer's,  a  long,  misshapen  skull,  a 
frame  slender  and  weak:  here  was  a  Shelley  called  to  be  a  king. 


He  had  hardly  come  to  power  when  he  began  to  revolt  against  the 
religion  of  Amon,  and  the  practices  of  Amon's  priests.  In  the  great  temple 
at  Karnak  there  was  now  a  large  harem,  supposedly  the  concubines  of 
Amon,  but  in  reality  serving  to  amuse  the  clergy.*811  The  young  emperor, 
whose  private  life  was  a  model  of  fidelity,  did  not  approve  of  this  sacred 
harlotry;  the  blood  of  the  ram  slaughtered  in  sacrifice  to  Amon  stank 
in  his  nostrils;  and  the  traffic  of  the  priests  in  magic  and  charms,  and  their 
use  of  the  oracle  of  Amon  to  support  religious  obscurantism  and  political 
corruption**  disgusted  him  to  the  point  of  violent  protest.  "More  evil  are 
the  words  of  the  priests,"  he  said,  "than  those  which  I  heard  until  the  year 
IV"  (of  his  reign) ;  "more  evil  are  they  than  those  which  King  Amenhotep 
III  heard."980  His  youthful  spirit  rebelled  against  the  sordidness  into  which 
the  religion  of  his  people  had  fallen;  he  abominated  the  indecent  wealth 
and  lavish  ritual  of  the  temples,  and  the  growing  hold  of  a  mercenary 
hierarchy  on  the  nation's  life.  With  a  poet's  audacity  he  threw  compromise 
to  the  winds,  and  announced  bravely  that  all  these  gods  and  ceremonies 
were  a  vulgar  idolatry,  that  there  was  but  one  god— Aton. 

Like  Akbar  in  India  thirty  centuries  later,  Ikhnaton  saw  divinity  above 
all  in  the  sun,  in  the  source  of  all  earthly  life  and  light.  We  cannot  tell 
whether  he  had  adopted  his  theory  from  Syria,  and  whether  Aton  was 
merely  a  form  of  Adonis.  Of  whatever  origin,  the  new  god  filled  the 
king's  soul  with  delight;  he  changed  his  own  name  from  Amenhotep,  which 
contained  the  name  of  Amon,  to  Ikhnaton,  meaning  "Aton  is  satisfied"; 
and  helping  himself  with  old  hymns,  and  certain  monotheistic  poems  pub- 
lished in  the  preceding  reign,*  he  composed  passionate  songs  to  Aton,  of 
which  this,  the  longest  and  the  best,  is  the  fairest  surviving  remnant  of 
Egyptian  literature: 

Thy  dawning  is  beautiful  in  the  horizon  of  the  sky, 
O  living  Aton,  Beginning  of  life. 
When  thou  risest  in  the  eastern  horizon, 
Thou  fillest  every  land  with  thy  beauty. 

Thou  art  beautiful,  great,  glittering,  high  above  every  land, 

Thy  rays,  they  encompass  the  land,  even  all  that  thou  hast  made. 

*  Under  Amenhotep  III  the  architects  Suti  and  Hor  had  inscribed  a  monotheistic  hymn 
to  the  sun  upon  a  stele  now  in  die  British  Museum.*01  It  had  long  been  the  custom  in 
Egypt  to  address  the  sun-god,  Amon-Ra,  as  die  greatest  god,8"  but  only  as  the  god  of 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  207 

Thou  art  Re,  and  thou  earnest  them  all  away  captive; 
Thou  bindest  them  by  thy  love. 
Though  thou  art  far  away,  thy  rays  are  upon  earth; 
Though  thou  art  on  high,  thy  footprints  are  the  day. 

When  thou  settest  in  the  western  horizon  of  the  sky, 

The  earth  is  in  darkness  like  the  dead; 

They  sleep  in  their  chambers, 

Their  heads  are  wrapped  up, 

Their  nostrils  are  stopped, 

And  none  seeth  the  other, 

All  their  things  are  stolen 

Which  are  under  their  heads, 

And  they  know  it  not. 

Every  lion  cometh  forth  from  his  den, 

All  serpents  they  sting.  .  .  . 

The  world  is  in  silence, 

He  that  made  them  resteth  in  his  horizon. 

Bright  is  the  earth  when  thou  risest  in  the  horizon. 

When  thou  shinest  as  Aton  by  day 

Thou  drivest  away  the  darkness. 

When  thou  sendest  forth  thy  rays, 

The  Two  Lands  are  in  daily  festivity, 

Awake  and  standing  upon  their  feet 

When  thou  hast  raised  them  up. 

Their  limbs  bathed,  they  take  their  clothing, 

Their  arms  uplifted  in  adoration  to  thy  dawning. 

In  all  the  world  they  do  their  work. 

All  cattle  rest  upon  their  pasturage, 

The  trees  and  the  plants  flourish, 

The  birds  flutter  in  their  marshes, 

Their  wings  uplifted  in  adoration  to  thee. 

All  the  sheep  dance  upon  their  feet, 

All  winged  things  fly, 

They  live  when  thou  hast  shone  upon  them. 

The  barks  sail  upstream  and  downstream. 
Every  highway  is  open  because  thou  dawnest. 
The  fish  in  the  river  leap  up  before  thee. 
Thy  rays  are  in  the  midst  of  the  great  green  sea. 


Creator  of  the  germ  in  woman, 

Maker  of  seed  in  man, 

Giving  life  to  the  son  in  the  body  of  his  mother, 

Soothing  him  that  he  may  not  weep, 

Nurse  even  in  the  womb, 

Giver  of  breath  to  animate  every  one  that  he  maketh! 

When  he  cometh  forth  from  the  body  ...  on  the  day  of  his  birth, 

Thou  openest  his  mouth  in  speech, 

Thou  suppliest  his  necessities. 

When  the  fledgling  in  the  egg  chirps  in  the  egg, 

Thou  givest  him  breath  therein  to  preserve  him  alive. 

When  thou  hast  brought  him  together 

To  the  point  of  bursting  the  egg, 

He  cometh  forth  from  the  egg, 

To  chirp  with  all  his  might. 

He  goeth  about  upon  his  two  feet 

When  he  hath  come  forth  therefrom. 

How  manifold  are  thy  works! 

They  are  hidden  from  before  us, 

O  sole  god,  whose  powers  no  other  possesseth. 

Thou  didst  create  the  earth  according  to  thy  heart 

While  thou  wast  alone: 

Men,  all  cattle  large  and  small, 

All  that  are  upon  the  earth, 

That  go  about  upon  their  feet; 

All  that  are  on  high, 

That  fly  with  their  wings. 

The  foreign  countries,  Syria  and  Rush, 

The  land  of  Egypt; 

Thou  settest  every  man  into  his  place, 

Thou  suppliest  their  necessities.  .  .  . 

Thou  makest  the  Nile  in  the  nether  world, 
Thou  bringest  it  as  thou  desirest, 
To  preserve  alive  the  people.  .  .  . 

How  excellent  are  thy  designs, 

O  Lord  of  eternity! 

There  is  a  Nile  in  the  sky  for  the  strangers 

And  for  the  cattle  of  every  country  that  go  upon  their  feet.  .  .  • 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  209 

Thy  rays  nourish  every  garden; 

When  thou  risest  they  live, 

They  grow  by  thee. 

Thou  makest  the  seasons 

In  order  to  create  all  thy  work: 

Winter  to  bring  them  coolness, 

And  heat  that  they  may  taste  thee. 

Thou  didst  make  the  distant  sky  to  rise  therein, 

In  order  to  behold  all  that  thou  hast  made, 

Thou  alone,  shining  in  the  form  as  living  Aton, 

Dawning,  glittering,  going  afar  and  returning. 

Thou  makest  millions  of  forms 

Through  thyself  alone; 

Cities,  towns  and  tribes, 

Highways  and  rivers. 

All  eyes  see  thee  before  them, 

For  thou  art  Aton  of  the  day  over  the  earth.  .  .  . 

Thou  art  in  my  heart, 

There  is  no  other  that  knoweth  thee 

Save  thy  son  Ikhnaton. 

Thou  hast  made  him  wise 

In  thy  designs  and  in  thy  might. 

The  world  is  in  thy  hand, 

Even  as  thou  hast  made  them. 

When  thou  hast  risen  they  live, 

When  thou  settest  they  die; 

For  thou  art  length  of  life  of  thyself, 

Men  live  through  thee, 

While  their  eyes  are  upon  thy  beauty 

Until  thou  settest. 

All  labor  is  put  away 

When  thou  settest  in  the  west.  .  .  . 

Thou  didst  establish  the  world, 

And  raised  them  up  for  thy  son.  .  .  . 

Ikhnaton,  whose  life  is  long; 

And  for  the  chief  royal  wife,  his  beloved, 

Mistress  of  the  Two  Lands, 

Nefer-nefru-aton,  Nofretete, 

Living  and  flourishing  for  ever  and  ever.*8 


This  is  not  only  one  of  the  great  poems  of  history,  it  is  the  first  out- 
standing expression  of  monotheism— seven  hundred  years  before  Isaiah.* 
Perhaps,  as  Breasted985  suggests,  this  conception  of  one  sole  god  was  a 
reflex  of  the  unification  of  the  Mediterranean  world  under  Egypt  by 
Thutmose  III.  Ikhnaton  conceives  his  god  as  belonging  to  all  nations 
equally,  and  even  names  other  countries  before  his  own  as  in  Aton's  care; 
this  was  an  astounding  advance  upon  the  old  tribal  deities.  Note  the 
vitalistic  conception:  Aton  is  to  be  found  not  in  battles  and  victories  but 
in  flowers  and  trees,  in  all  forms  of  life  and  growth;  Aton  is  the  joy  that 
causes  the  young  sheep  to  "dance  upon  their  legs,"  and  the  birds  to  "flutter 
in  their  marshes."  Nor  is  the  god  a  person  limited  to  human  form;  the 
real  divinity  is  the  creative  and  nourishing  heat  of  the  sun;  the  flaming 
glory  of  the  rising  or  setting  orb  is  but  an  emblem  of  that  ultimate  power. 
Nevertheless,  because  of  its  omnipresent,  fertilizing  beneficence,  the  sun 
becomes  to  Ikhnaton  also  the  "Lord  of  love,"  the  tender  nurse  that  "creates 
the  man-child  in  woman,"  and  "fills  the  Two  Lands  of  Egypt  with  love." 
So  at  last  Aton  grows  by  symbolism  into  a  solicitous  father,  compassionate 
and  tender;  not,  like  Yahveh,  a  Lord  of  Hosts,  but  a  god  of  gentleness  and 

It  is  one  of  the  tragedies  of  history  that  Ikhnaton,  having  achieved  his 
elevating  vision  of  universal  unity,  was  not  satisfied  to  let  the  noble  quality 
of  his  new  religion  slowly  win  the  hearts  of  men.  He  was  unable  to 
think  of  his  truth  in  relative  terms;  the  thought  came  to  him  that  other 
forms  of  belief  and  worship  were  indecent  and  intolerable.  Suddenly  he 
gave  orders  that  the  names  of  all  gods  but  Aton  should  be  erased  and 
chiseled  from  every  public  inscription  in  Egypt;  he  mutilated  his  father's 
name  from  a  hundred  monuments  to  cut  from  it  the  word  A?non;  he 
declared  all  creeds  but  his  own  illegal,  and  commanded  that  all  the  old 
temples  should  be  closed.  He  abandoned  Thebes  as  unclean,  and  built 
for  himself  a  beautiful  new  capital  at  Akhetaton— "City  of  the  Horizon 
of  Aton." 

Rapidly  Thebes  decayed  as  the  offices  and  emoluments  of  government 
were  taken  from  it,  and  Akhetaton  became  a  rich  metropolis,  busy  with 
fresh  building  and  a  Renaissance  of  arts  liberated  from  the  priestly  bondage 
of  tradition.  The  joyous  spirit  expressed  in  the  new  religion  passed  over 
into  its  art.  At  Tell-el-Amarna,  a  modern  village  on  the  site  of  Akhetaton, 

*  The  obvious  similarity  of  this  hymn  to  Psalm  CIV  leaves  little  doubt  of  Egyptian  in- 
fluence upon  the  Hebrew  poet.884 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  211 

Sir  William  Flinders  Petrie  unearthed  a  beautiful  pavement,  adorned  with 
birds,  fishes  and  other  animals  painted  with  the  most  delicate  grace.1" 
Ikhnaton  forbade  the  artists  to  make  images  of  Aton,  on  the  lofty  ground 
that  the  true  god  has  no  form;**  for  the  rest  he  left  art  free,  merely  asking 
his  favorite  artists,  Bek,  Auta  and  Nutmose,  to  describe  things  as  they  saw 
them,  and  to  forget  the  conventions  of  the  priests.  They  took  him  at  his 
word,  and  represented  him  as  a  youth  of  gentle,  almost  timid,  face,  and 
strangely  dolichocephalic  head.  Taking  their  lead  from  his  vitalistic  con- 
ception of  deity,  they  painted  every  form  of  plant  and  animal  life  with 
loving  detail,  and  with  a  perfection  hardly  surpassed  in  any  other  place 
or  time.280  For  a  while  art,  which  in  every  generation  knows  the  pangs  of 
hunger  and  obscurity,  flourished  in  abundance  and  happiness. 

Had  Ikhnaton  been  a  mature  mind  he  would  have  realized  that  the 
change  which  he  had  proposed  from  a  superstitious  polytheism  deeply 
rooted  in  the  needs  and  habits  of  the  people  to  a  naturalistic  monotheism 
that  subjected  imagination  to  intelligence,  was  too  profound  to  be  effected 
in  a  little  time;  he  would  have  made  haste  slowly,  and  softened  the  transi- 
tion with  intermediate  steps.  But  he  was  a  poet  rather  than  a  philosopher; 
like  Shelley  announcing  the  demise  of  Yahveh  to  the  bishops  of  Oxford, 
he  grasped  for  the  Absolute,  and  brought  the  whole  structure  of  Egypt 
down  upon  his  head. 

At  one  blow  he  had  dispossessed  and  alienated  a  wealthy  and  powerful 
priesthood,  and  had  forbidden  the  worship  of  deities  made  dear  by  long 
tradition  and  belief.  When  he  had  Amon  hacked  out  from  his  father's 
name  it  seemed  to  his  people  a  blasphemous  impiety;  nothing  could  be 
more  vital  to  them  than  the  honoring  of  the  ancestral  dead.  He  had  under- 
estimated the  strength  and  pertinacity  of  the  priests,  and  he  had  exagger- 
ated the  capacity  of  the  people  to  understand  a  natural  religion.  Behind 
the  scenes  the  priests  plotted  and  prepared;  and  in  the  seclusion  of  their 
homes  the  populace  continued  to  worship  their  ancient  and  innumerable 
gods.  A  hundred  crafts  that  had  depended  upon  the  temples  muttered  in 
secret  against  the  heretic.  Even  in  his  palace  his  ministers  and  generals 
hated  him,  and  prayed  for  his  death,  for  was  he  not  allowing  the  Empire 
to  fall  to  pieces  in  his  hands? 

Meanwhile  the  young  poet  lived  in  simplicity  and  trust.  He  had  seven 
daughters,  but  no  son;  and  though  by  law  he  might  have  sought  an  heir 
by  his  secondary  wives,  he  would  not,  but  preferred  to  remain  faithful 
to  Nofretete.  A  little  ornament  has  come  down  to  us  that  shows  him 


embracing  the  Queen;  he  allowed  artists  to  depict  him  riding  in  a  chariot 
through  the  streets,  engaged  in  pleasantries  with  his  wife  and  children; 
on  ceremonial  occasions  the  Queen  sat  beside  him  and  held  his  hand, 
while  their  daughters  frolicked  at  the  foot  of  the  throne.  He  spoke  of 
his  wife  as  "Mistress  of  his  Happiness,  at  hearing  whose  voice  the  King 
rejoices";  and  for  an  oath  he  used  the  phrase,  "As  my  heart  is  happy  in 
the  Queen  and  her  children."270  It  was  a  tender  interlude  in  Egypt's  epic 
of  power. 

Into  this  simple  happiness  came  alarming  messages  from  Syria.*  The 
dependencies  of  Egypt  in  the  Near  East  were  being  invaded  by  Hittites 
and  other  neighboring  tribes;  the  governors  appointed  by  Egypt  pleaded 
for  immediate  reinforcements.  Ikhnaton  hesitated;  he  was  not  quite  sure 
that  the  right  of  conquest  warranted  him  in  keeping  these  states  in  sub- 
jection to  Egypt;  and  he  was  loath  to  send  Egyptians  to  die  on  distant 
fields  for  so  uncertain  a  cause.  When  the  dependencies  saw  that  they  were 
dealing  with  a  saint,  they  deposed  their  Egyptian  governors,  quietly 
stopped  all  payment  of  tribute,  and  became  to  all  effects  free.  Almost  in  a 
moment  Egypt  ceased  to  be  a  vast  Empire,  and  shrank  back  into  a  little 
state.  Soon  the  Egyptian  treasury,  which  had  for  a  century  depended  upon 
foreign  tribute  as  its  mainstay,  was  empty;  domestic  taxation  had  fallen 
to  a  minimum,  and  the  working  of  the  gold  mines  had  stopped.  Internal 
administration  was  in  chaos.  Ikhnaton  found  himself  penniless  and  friend- 
less in  a  world  that  had  seemed  all  his  own.  Every  colony  was  in  revolt, 
and  every  power  in  Egypt  was  arrayed  against  him,  waiting  for  his  fall. 

He  was  hardly  thirty  when,  in  1362  B.C.,  he  died,  broken  with  the  reali- 
zation of  his  failure  as  a  ruler,  and  the  unworthiness  of  his  race. 

*In  1893  Sir  William  Flinders  Petrie  discovered  at  Tell-el-Amarna  over  three  hundred 
and  fifty  cuneiform  letter-tablets,  most  of  which  were  appeals  for  aid  addressed  to 
Ikhnaton  by  the  East. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  213 


Tutenkhamon— The  labors  of  Rameses  ll—The  'wealth  of  the 

clergy  —  The  poverty   of  the  people  —  The  conquest  of 

Egypt— Summary  of  Egyptian  contributions  to  civilization 

Two  years  after  his  death  his  son-in-law,  Tutenkhamon,  a  favorite  of 
the  priests,  ascended  the  throne.  He  changed  the  name  Tutenkhaton 
which  his  father-in-law  had  given  him,  returned  the  capital  to  Thebes, 
made  his  peace  with  the  powers  of  the  Church,  and  announced  to  a  rejoicing 
people  the  restoration  of  the  ancient  gods.  The  words  Aton  and  Ikhnaton 
were  effaced  from  all  the  monuments,  the  priests  forbade  the  name  of  the 
heretic  king  to  pass  any  man's  lips,  and  the  people  referred  to  him  as  "The 
Great  Criminal."  The  names  that  Ikhnaton  had  removed  were  recarved 
upon  the  monuments,  and  the  feast-days  that  he  had  abolished  were 
renewed.  Everything  was  as  before. 

For  the  rest  Tutenkhamon  reigned  without  distinction;  the  world  would 
hardly  have  heard  of  him  had  not  unprecedented  treasures  been  found 
in  his  grave.  After  him  a  doughty  general,  Harmhab,  marched  his  armies 
up  and  down  the  coast,  restoring  Egypt's  external  power  and  internal 
peace.  Seti  I  wisely  reaped  the  fruits  of  renewed  order  and  wealth,  built 
the  Hypostyle  Hall  at  Karnak,272  began  to  cut  a  mighty  temple  into  the 
cliffs  at  Abu  Simbel,  commemorated  his  grandeur  in  magnificent  reliefs, 
and  had  the  pleasure  of  lying  for  thousands  of  years  in  one  of  the  most 
ornate  of  Egypt's  tombs. 

At  this  point  the  romantic  Rameses  II,  last  of  the  great  Pharaohs, 
mounted  the  throne.  Seldom  has  history  known  so  picturesque  a  monarch. 
Handsome  and  brave,  he  added  to  his  charms  by  his  boyish  consciousness 
of  them;  and  his  exploits  in  war,  which  he  never  tired  of  recording,  were 
equaled  only  by  his  achievements  in  love.  After  brushing  aside  a  brother 
who  had  inopportune  rights  to  the  throne,  he  sent  an  expedition  to  Nubia 
to  tap  the  gold  mines  there  and  replenish  the  treasury  of  Egypt;  and  with 
the  resultant  funds  he  undertook  the  reconquest  of  the  Asiatic  provinces, 
which  had  again  rebelled.  Three  years  he  gave  to  recovering  Palestine; 
then  he  pushed  on,  met  a  great  army  of  the  Asiatic  allies  at  Kadesh  (1288 
B.C.),  and  turned  defeat  into  victory  by  his  courage  and  leadership.  It  may 
have  been  as  a  result  of  these  campaigns  that  a  considerable  number  of 
Jews  were  brought  into  Egypt,  as  slaves  or  as  immigrants;  and  Rameses  II 


is  believed  by  some  to  have  been  the  Pharaoh  of  the  Exodus.87"  He  had 
his  victories  commemorated,  without  undue  impartiality,  on  half  a  hundred 
walls,  commissioned  a  poet  to  celebrate  him  in  epic  verse,  and  rewarded 
himself  with  several  hundred  wives.  When  he  died  he  left  one  hundred 
sons  and  fifty  daughters  to  testify  to  his  quality  by  their  number  and  their 
proportion.  He  married  several  of  his  daughters,  so  that  they  too  might 
have  splendid  children.  His  offspring  were  so  numerous  that  they  con- 
stituted for  four  hundred  years  a  special  class  in  Egypt,  from  which,  for 
over  a  century,  her  rulers  were  chosen. 

He  deserved  these  consolations,  for  he  seems  to  have  ruled  Egypt  well. 
He  built  so  lavishly  that  half  the  surviving  edifices  of  Egypt  are  ascribed 
to  his  reign.  He  completed  the  main  hall  at  Karnak,  added  to  the  temple 
of  Luxor,  raised  his  own  vast  shrine,  the  Ramesseum,  west  of  the  river, 
finished  the  great  mountain-sanctuary  at  Abu  Simbel,  and  scattered 
colossi  of  himself  throughout  the  land.  Commerce  flourished  under  him, 
both  across  the  Isthmus  of  Suez  and  on  the  Mediterranean.  He  built  an- 
other canal  from  the  Nile  to  the  Red  Sea,  but  the  shifting  sands  filled  it  up 
soon  after  his  death.  He  yielded  up  his  life  in  1225  B.C.,  aged  ninety,  after 
one  of  the  most  remarkable  reigns  of  history. 

Only  one  human  power  in  Egypt  had  excelled  his,  and  that  was  the 
clergy:  here,  as  everywhere  in  history,  ran  the  endless  struggle  between 
church  and  state.  Throughout  his  reign  and  those  of  his  immediate  suc- 
cessors, the  spoils  of  every  war,  and  the  lion's  share  of  taxes  from  the 
conquered  provinces,  went  to  the  temples  and  the  priests.  These  reached 
1  the  zenith  of  their  wealth  under  Rameses  HI.  They  possessed  at  that  time 
|  107,000  slaves— one-thirtieth  of  the  population  of  Egypt;  they  held  750,000 
acres—one-seventh  of  all  the  arable  land;  they  owned  500,000  head  of 
cattle;  they  received  the  revenues  from  169  towns  in  Egypt  and  Syria; 
and  all  this  property  was  exempt  from  taxation.*"  The  generous  or 
timorous  Rameses  III  showered  unparalleled  gifts  upon  the  priests  of 
Amon,  including  32,000  kilograms  of  gold  and  a  million  kilograms  of 
silver;*™  every  year  he  gave  them  185,000  sacks  of  corn.  When  the  time 
came  to  pay  the  workmen  employed  by  the  state  he  found  his  treasury 
empty.*71  More  and  more  the  people  starved  in  order  that  the  gods  might 

Under  such  a  policy  it  was  only  a  matter  of  time  before  the  kings 
would  become  the  servants  of  the  priests.  In  the  reign  of  the  last  Ramessid 
king  the  High  Priest  of  Amon  usurped  the  throne  and  ruled  as  openly 


supreme;  the  Empire  became  a  stagnant  theocracy  in  which  architecture 
and  superstition  flourished,  and  every  other  element  in  the  national  life 
decayed.  Omens  were  manipulated  to  give  a  divine  sanction  to  every 
decision  of  the  clergy.  The  most  vital  forces  of  Egypt  were  sucked  dry 
by  the  thirst  of  the  gods  at  the  very  time  when  foreign  invaders  were 
preparing  to  sweep  down  upon  all  this  concentrated  wealth. 

For  meanwhile  on  every  frontier  trouble  brewed.  The  prosperity  of 
the  country  had  come  in  part  from  its  strategic  place  on  the  main  line  of 
Mediterranean  trade;  its  metals  and  wealth  had  given  it  mastery  over 
Libya  on  the  west,  and  over  Phoenicia,  Syria  and  Palestine  on  the  north 
and  east.  But  now  at  the  other  end  of  this  trade  route— in  Assyria,  Babylon 
and  Persia—new  nations  were  growing  to  maturity  and  power,  were 
strengthening  themselves  with  invention  and  enterprise,  and  were  daring 
to  compete  in  commerce  and  industry  with  the  self-satisfied  and  pious 
Egyptians.  The  Phoenicians  were  perfecting  the  trireme  galley,  and  with 
it  were  gradually  wresting  from  Egypt  the  control  of  the  sea.  The  Dorians 
and  Achaeans  had  conquered  Crete  and  the  jEgean  (ca.  1400  B.C.),  and 
were  establishing  a  commercial  empire  of  their  own;  trade  moved  less  and 
less  in  slow  caravans  over  the  difficult  and  robber-infested  mountains  and 
deserts  of  the  Near  East;  it  moved  more  and  more,  at  less  expense  and  with 
less  loss,  in  ships  that  passed  through  the  Black  Sea  and  the  jfcgean  to 
Troy,  Crete  and  Greece,  at  last  to  Carthage,  Italy  and  Spain.  The  nations 
along  the  northern  shores  of  the  Mediterranean  ripened  and  blossomed, 
the  nations  on  the  southern  shores  faded  and  rotted  away.  Egypt  lost  her 
trade,  her  gold,  her  power,  her  art,  at  last  even  her  pride;  one  by  one  her 
rivals  crept  down  upon  her  soil,  harassed  and  conquered  her,  and  laid 
her  waste. 

In  954  B.C.  the  Libyans  came  in  from  the  western  hills,  and  laid  about 
them  with  fury;  in  722  the  Ethiopians  entered  from  the  south,  and  avenged 
their  ancient  slavery;  in  674  the  Assyrians  swept  down  from  the  north  and 
subjected  priest-ridden  Egypt  to  tribute.  For  a  time  Psamtik,  Prince  of 
Sai's,  repelled  the  invaders,  and  brought  Egypt  together  again  under  his 
leadership.  During  his  long  reign,  and  those  of  his  successors,  came  the 
"Sai'te  Revival"  of  Egyptian  art:  the  architects  and  sculptors,  poets  and 
scientists  of  Egypt  gathered  up  the  technical  and  esthetic  traditions  of  their 
schools,  and  prepared  to  lay  them  at  the  feet  of  the  Greeks.  But  in  525 
B.C.  the  Persians  under  Cambyses  crossed  Suez,  and  again  put  an  end 
to  Egyptian  independence.  In  332  B.C.  Alexander  sallied  out  of  Asia,  and 


made  Egypt  a  province  of  Macedon.*  In  48  B.C.  Caesar  arrived  to  capture 
Egypt's  new  capital,  Alexandria,  and  to  give  to  Cleopatra  the  son  and  heir 
whom  they  vainly  hoped  to  crown  as  the  unifying  monarch  of  the  greatest 
empires  of  antiquity."77  In  30  B.C.  Egypt  became  a  province  of  Rome,  and 
disappeared  from  history. 

For  a  time  it  flourished  again  when  saints  peopled  the  desert,  and  Cyril 
dragged  Hypatia  to  her  death  in  the  streets  (415  A.D.);  and  again  when  the 
Moslems  conquered  it  (ca.  A.D.  650),  built  Cairo  with  the  ruins  of  Mem- 
phis, and  filled  it  with  bright-domed  mosques  and  citadels.  But  these  were 
alien  cultures  not  really  Egypt's  own,  and  they  too  passed  away.  Today 
there  is  a  place  called  Egypt,  but  the  Egyptian  people  are  not  masters 
there;  long  since  they  have  been  broken  by  conquest,  and  merged  in  lan- 
guage and  marriage  with  their  Arab  conquerors;  their  cities  know  only  the 
authority  of  Moslems  and  Englishmen,  and  the  feet  of  weary  pilgrims  who 
travel  thousands  of  miles  to  find  that  the  Pyramids  are  merely  heaps  of 
stones.  Perhaps  greatness  could  grow  there  again  if  Asia  should  once  more 
become  rich,  and  make  Egypt  the  half-way  house  of  the  planet's  trade. 
But  of  the  morrow,  as  Lorenzo  sang,  there  is  no  certainty;  and  today  the 
only  certainty  is  decay.  On  all  sides  gigantic  ruins,  monuments  and  tombs, 
memorials  of  a  savage  and  titanic  energy;  on  all  sides  poverty  and  desola- 
tion, and  the  exhaustion  of  an  ancient  blood.  And  on  all  sides  the  hostile, 
engulfing  sands,  blown  about  forever  by  hot  winds,  and  grimly  resolved 
to  cover  everything  in  the  end. 

Nevertheless  the  sands  have  destroyed  only  the  body  of  ancient  Egypt; 
its  spirit  survives  in  the  lore  and  memory  of  our  race.  The  improvement 
of  agriculture,  metallurgy,  industry  and  engineering;  the  apparent  inven- 
tion of  glass  and  linen,  of  paper  and  ink,  of  the  calendar  and  the  clock,  of 
geometry  and  the  alphabet;  the  refinement  of  dress  and  ornament,  of  furni- 
ture and  dwellings,  of  society  and  life;  the  remarkable  development  of 
orderly  and  peaceful  government,  of  census  and  post,  of  primary  and 
secondary  education,  even  of  technical  training  for  office  and  administra- 
tion; the  advancement  of  writing  and  literature,  of  science  and  medicine; 
the  first  clear  formulation  known  to  us  of  individual  and  public  con- 
science, the  first  cry  for  social  justice,  the  first  widespread  monogamy,  the 
first  monotheism,  the  first  essays  in  moral  philosophy;  the  elevation  of 

*  The  history  of  classical  Egyptian  civilization  under  the  Ptolemies  and  the  Caesars  be- 
longs to  a  later  volume. 

CHAP.  VIIl)  EGYPT  217 

architecture,  sculpture  and  the  minor  arts  to  a  degree  of  excellence  and 
power  never  (so  far  as  we  know)  reached  before,  and  seldom  equaled 
since:  these  contributions  were  not  lost,  even  when  their  finest  exemplars 
were  buried  under  the  desert,  or  overthrown  by  some  convulsion  of  the 
globe.*  Through  the  Phoenicians,  the  Syrians  and  the  Jews,  through  the 
Cretans,  the  Greeks  and  the  Romans,  the  civilization  of  Egypt  passed 
down  to  become  part  of  the  cultural  heritage  of  mankind.  The  effect  or 
remembrance  of  what  Egypt  accomplished  at  the  very  dawn  of  history  has 
influence  in  every  nation  and  every  age.  "It  is  even  possible,"  as  Faure 
has  said,  "that  Egypt,  through  the  solidarity,  the  unity,  and  the  disciplined 
variety  of  its  artistic  products,  through  the  enormous  duration  and  the  sus- 
tained power  of  its  effort,  offers  the  spectacle  of  the  greatest  civilization 
that  has  yet  appeared  on  the  earth."278  We  shall  do  well  to  equal  it. 

*  Thebes  was  finally  destroyed  by  an  earthquake  in  27  B.C. 




Babylonian  contributions  to  modern  civilization— The  Land  be- 
tween the  Rivers  —  Hammurabi  —  His  capital  —  The  Kassite 
Domination— The  Amarna  letters— The  Assyrian  Con- 
quest—Nebuchadrezzar—Babylon in  the  days   of 
its  glory 

IVILIZATION,  like  life,  is  a  perpetual  struggle  with  death.  And  as 
life  maintains  itself  only  by  abandoning  old,  and  recasting  itself  in 
younger  and  fresher,  forms,  so  civilization  achieves  a  precarious  survival 
by  changing  its  habitat  or  its  blood.  It  moved  from  Ur  to  Babylon  and 
Judea,  from  Babylon  to  Nineveh,  from  these  to  Persepolis,  Sardis  and 
Miletus,  and  from  these,  Egypt  and  Crete  to  Greece  and  Rome. 

No  one  looking  at  the  site  of  ancient  Babylon  today  would  suspect  that 
these  hot  and  dreary  wastes  along  the  Euphrates  were  once  the  rich  and 
powerful  capital  of  a  civilization  that  almost  created  astronomy,  added 
richly  to  the  progress  of  medicine,  established  the  science  of  language, 
prepared  the  first  great  codes  of  law,  taught  the  Greeks  the  rudiments  of 
mathematics,  physics  and  philosophy,1  gave  the  Jews  the  mythology  which 
they  gave  to  the  world,  and  passed  on  to  the  Arabs  part  of  that  scientific 
and  architectural  lore  with  which  they  aroused  the  dormant  soul  of  medie- 
val Europe.  Standing  before  the  silent  Tigris  and  Euphrates  one  finds  it 
hard  to  believe  that  they  are  the  same  rivers  that  watered  Sumeria  and 
Akkad,  and  nourished  the  Hanging  Gardens  of  Babylon. 

In  some  ways  they  are  not  the  same  rivers:  not  only  because  "one  never 
steps  twice  into  the  same  stream,"  but  because  these  old  rivers  have  long 
since  remade  their  beds  along  new  courses,1  and  "mow  with  their  scythes 
of  whiteness"8  other  shores.  As  in  Egypt  the  Nile,  so  here  the  Tigris  and 
the  Euphrates  provided,  for  thousands  of  miles,  an  avenue  of  commerce 
and— in  their  southern  reaches—springtime  inundations  that  helped  the 
peasant  to  fertilize  his  soil.  For  rain  comes  to  Babylonia  only  in  the  winter 



months;  from  May  to  November  it  comes  not  at  all;  and  the  earth,  but 
for  the  overflow  of  the  rivers,  would  be  as  arid  as  northern  Mesopotamia 
was  then  and  is  today.  Through  the  abundance  of  the  rivers  and  the  toil 
of  many  generations  of  men,  Babylonia  became  the  Eden  of  Semitic 
legend,  the  garden  and  granary  of  western  Asia.* 

""  Historically  and  ethnically  Babylonia  was  a  product  of  the  union  of  the 
Akkadians  and  the  Sumerians.  Their  mating  generated  the  Babylonian 
type,  in  which  the  Akkadian  Semitic  strain  proved  dominant;  their  warfare 
ended  in  the  triumph  of  Akkad,  and  the  establishment  of  Babylon  as  the 
capital  of  all  lower  Mesopotamia.  At  the  outset  of  this  history  stands 
the  powerful  figure  of  Hammurabi  (2123-2081  B.C.)  conqueror  and  law- 
giver  through  a  reign  of  forty-three  years.  Primeval  seals  and  inscriptions 
transmit  him  to  us  partially— a  youth  full  of  fire  and  genius,  a  very  whirl- 
wind in  battle,  who  crushes  all  rebels,  cuts  his  enemies  into  pieces,  marches 
over  inaccessible  mountains,  and  never  loses  an  engagement.  Under  him 
the  petty  warring  states  of  the  lower  valley  were  forced  into  unity  and 
peace,  and  disciplined  into  order  and  security  by  an  historic  code  of  laws. 
The  Code  of  Hammurabi  was  unearthed  at  Susa  in  1902,  beautifully 
engraved  upon  a  diorite  cylinder  that  had  been  carried  from  Babylon  to 
Elam  (ca.  noo  B.C.)  as  a  trophy  of  war.f  Like  that  of  Moses,  this  legis- 
lation was  a  gift  from  Heaven,  for  one  side  of  the  cylinder  shows  the  King 
receiving  the  laws  from  Shamash,  the  Sun-god  himself.  The  Prologue  is 
almost  in  Heaven: 

When  the  lofty  Anu,  King  of  the  Anunaki  and  Bel,  Lord  of 
Heaven  and  Earth,  he  who  determines  the  destiny  of  the  land, 
committed  the  rule  of  all  mankind  to  Marduk;  .  .  .  when  they 
pronounced  the  lofty  name  of  Babylon;  when  they  made  it  famous 
among  the  quarters  of  the  world  and  in  its  midst  established  an 
everlasting  kingdom  whose  foundations  were  firm  as  heaven  and 
earth— at  that  time  Anu  and  Bel  called  me,  Hammurabi,  the  ex- 
alted prince,  the  worshiper  of  the  gods,  to  cause  justice  to  prevail 
in  the  land,  to  destroy  the  wicked  and  the  evil,  to  prevent  the 
strong  from  oppressing  the  weak,  .  .  .  to  enlighten  the  land  and  to 
further  the  welfare  of  the  people.  Hammurabi,  the  governor  named 
by  Bel,  am  I,  who  brought  about  plenty  and  abundance;  who  made 

*  The  Euphrates  is  one  of  the  four  rivers  which,  according  to  Genesis  (ii,  14),  flowed 
through  Paradise, 
fit  is  now  in  the  Louvre. 


everything  for  Nippur  and  Durilu  complete;  .  .  .  who  gave  life  to 
the  city  of  Uruk;  who  supplied  water  in  abundance  to  its  inhabi- 
tants; .  .  .  who  made  the  city  of  Borsippa  beautiful;  .  .  .  wlpo  stored 
up  grain  for  the  mighty  Urash;  .  .  .  who  helped  his  people  in  time 
of  need;  who  establishes  in  security  their  property  in  Babylon;  the 
governor  of  the  people,  the  servant,  whose  deeds  are  pleasing  to 

The  words  here  arbitrarily  underlined  have  a  modern  ring;  one  would 
not  readily  attribute  them  to  an  Oriental  "despot"  2100  B.C.,  or  suspect 
that  the  laws  that  they  introduce  were  based  upon  Sumerian  prototypes 
now  six  thousand  years  old.  This  ancient  origin  combined  with  Baby- 
lonian circumstance  to  give  the  Code  a  composite  and  heterogeneous  char- 
acter. It  begins  with  compliments  to  the  gods,  but  takes  no  f urther  notice 
of  them  in  its  astonishingly  secular  legislation.  It  mingles  the  most  enlight- 
ened laws  with  the  most  barbarous  punishments,  and  sets  the  primitive 
lex  talionis  and  trial  by  ordeal  alongside  elaborate  judicial  procedures  and 
a  discriminating  attempt  to  limit  marital  tyranny.6  All  in  all,  these  285 
laws,  arranged  almost  scientifically  under  the  headings  of  Personal  Prop- 
erty, Real  Estate,  Trade  and  Business,  the  Family,  Injuries,  and  Labor, 
form  a  code  more  advanced  and  civilized  than  that  of  Assyria  a  thousand 
and  more  years  later,  and  in  many  respects  "as  good  as  that  of  a  modern 
European  state."'*  There  are  few  words  finer  in  the  history  of  law  than 
those  with  which  the  great  Babylonian  brings  his  legislation  to  a  close: 

The  righteous  laws  which  Hammurabi,  the  wise  king,  estab- 
lished, and  (by  which)  he  gave  the  land  stable  support  and  pure 
government.  ...  I  am  the  guardian  governor.  ...  In  my  bosom  I 
carried  the  people  of  the  land  of  Sumer  and  Akkad;  ...  in  my  wis- 
dom I  restrained  them,  that  the  strong  might  not  oppress  the  weak, 
and  that  they  should  give  justice  to  the  orphan  and  the  widow. 
.  .  .  Let  any  oppressed  man,  who  has  a  cause,  come  before  my 
image  as  king  of  righteousness!  Let  him  read  the  inscription  on  my 
monument!  Let  him  give  heed  to  my  weighty  words!  And  may 
my  monument  enlighten  him  as  to  his  cause,  and  may  he  under- 
stand his  case!  May  he  set  his  heart  at  ease,  (exclaiming:)  "Ham- 

*  The  "Mosaic  Code"  apparently  borrows  from  it,  or  derives  with  it  from  a  common 
original.  The  habit  of  stamping  a  legal  contract  with  an  official  seal  goes  back  to 


murabi  indeed  is  a  ruler  who  is  like  a  real  father  to  his  people; 
...  he  has  established  prosperity  for  his  people  for  all  time,  and 
given  a  pure  government  to  the  land."  .  .  . 

In  the  days  that  are  yet  to  come,  for  all  future  time,  may  the 
king  who  is  in  the  land  observe  the  words  of  righteousness  which  I 
have  written  upon  my  monument!1 

This  unifying  legislation  was  but  one  of  Hammurabi's  accomplishments. 
At  his  command  a  great  canal  was  dug  between  Kish  and  the  Persian  Gulf, 
thereby  irrigating  a  large  area  of  land,  and  protecting  the  cities  of  the  south 
from  the  destructive  floods  which  the  Tigris  had  been  wont  to  visit  upon 
them.  In  another  inscription  which  has  found  its  devious  way  from  his 
time  to  ours  he  tells  us  proudly  how  he  gave  water  (that  noble  and  unap- 
preciated commonplace,  which  was  once  a  luxury),  security  and  gov- 
ernment to  many  tribes.  Even  through  the  boasting  (an  honest  mannerism 
of  the  Orient)  we  hear  the  voice  of  statesmanship. 

When  Anu  and  Enlil  (the  gods  of  Uruk  and  Nippur)  gave  me 
the  lands  of  Sumer  and  Akkad  to  rule,  and  they  entrusted  this 
sceptre  to  me,  I  dug  the  canal  Htmmurabi-nukhush-nishi  (Ham- 
murabi -  the  -  Abundance  -  of  -  the  -  People  ) ,  which  bringeth  copious 
water  to  the  land  of  Sumer  and  Akkad.  Its  banks  on  both  sides  I 
turned  into  cultivated  ground;  I  heaped  up  piles  of  grain,  I  pro- 
vided unfailing  water  for  the  lands.  .  .  .  The  scattered  people  I 
gathered;  with  pasturage  and  water  I  provided  them;  I  pastured 
them  with  abundance,  and  settled  them  in  peaceful  dwellings.' 

Despite  the  secular  quality  of  his  laws  Hammurabi  was  clever  enough 
,  to  gild  his  authority  with  the  approval  of  the  gods.  He  built  temples  as 
well  as  forts,  and  coddled  the  clergy  by  constructing  at  Babylon  a  gigantic 
sanctuary  for  Marduk  and  his  wife  (the  national  deities),  and  a  massive 
granary  to  store  up  wheat  for  gods  and  priests.  These  and  similar  gifts 
were  an  astute  investment,  from  which  he  expected  steady  returns  in  the 
awed  obedience  of  the  people.  From  their  taxes  he  financed  the  forces 
of  law  and  order,  and  had  enough  left  over  to  beautify  his  capital.  Palaces 
and  temples  rose  on  every  hand;  a  bridge  spanned  the  Euphrates  to  let  the 
city  spread  itself  along  both  banks;  ships  manned  with  ninety  men  plied  up 


and  down  the  river.  Two  thousand  years  before  Christ  Babylon  was 
already  one  of  the  richest  cities  that  history  had  yet  known.* 

The  people  were  of  Semitic  appearance,  dark  in  hair  and  features,  mas- 
culinely  bearded  for  the  most  part,  and  occasionally  bewigged.  Both  sexes 
wore  the  hak  long;  sometimes  even  the  men  dangled  curls;  frequently  the 
men,  as  well  as  the  women,  disguised  themselves  with  perfumes.  The 
common  dress  for  both  sexes  was  a  white  linen  tunic  reaching  to  the  feet; 
in  the  women  it  left  one  shoulder  bare,  in  the  men  it  was  augmented  with 
mantle  and  robe.  As  wealth  grew,  the  people  developed  a  taste  for  color, 
and  dyed  for  themselves  garments  of  blue  on  red,  or  red  on  blue,  in  stripes, 
circles,  checks  or  dots.  The  bare  feet  of  the  Sumerian  period  gave  way  to 
shapely  sandals,  and  the  male  head,  in  Hammurabi's  time,  was  swathed  in 
turbans.  The  women  wore  necklaces,  bracelets  and  amulets,  and  strings  of 
beads  in  their  carefully  coiffured  hair;  the  men  flourished  walking-sticks 
with  carved  heads,  and  carried  on  their  girdles  the  prettily  designed  seals 
with  which  they  attested  their  letters  and  documents,  fhe  priests  wore 
tall  conical  caps  to  conceal  their  humanity.10 

It  is  almost  a  law  of  history  that  the  same  wealth  that  generates  a  civili- 
zation announces  its  decay.  For  wealth  produces  ease  as  well  as  art;  it 
softens  a  people  to  the  ways  of  luxury  and  peace,  and  invites  invasion  from 
stronger  arms  and  hungrier  mouths.  On  the  eastern  boundary  of  the  new 
state  a  hardy  tribe  of  mountaineers,  the  Kassites,  looked  with  envy  upon 
the  riches  of  Babylon.  Light  years  after  Hammurabi's  death  they  inun- 
dated the  land,  plundered  it,  retreated,  raided  it  again  and  again,  and 
finally  settled  down  in  it  as  conquerors  and  rulers;  this  is  the  normal 
origin  of  aristocracies.  They  were  of  non-Semitic  stock,  perhaps  descend- 
ants of  European  immigrants  from  neolithic  days;  their  victory  over  Sem- 
itic Babylon  represented  one  more  swing  of  the  racial  pendulum  in  west- 
ern Asia.  For  several  centuries  Babylonia  lived  in  an  ethnic  and  political 
chaos  that  put  a  stop  to  the  development  of  science  and  art.11  We  have 
a  kaleidoscope  of  this  stifling  disorder  in  the  "Amarna"  letters,  in  which 
the  kinglets  of  Babylonia  and  Syria,  having  sent  modest  tribute  to  im- 
perial Egypt  after  the  victories  of  Thutmose  III,  beg  for  aid  against  rebels 
and  invaders,  and  quarrel  about  the  value  of  the  gifts  that  they  exchange 

*  "In  all  essentials  Babylonia,  in  the  time  of  Hammurabi,  and  even  earlier,  had  reached  a 
'  pitch  of  material  civilization  which  has  never  since  been  surpassed  in  Asia."— Christopher 
Dawson,  Enquiries  into  Religion  and  Culture,  New  York,  1933,  p.  107.  Perhaps  we  should 
except  the  ages  of  Xerxes  I  in  Persia,  Ming  Huang  in  China,  and  Akbar  in  India. 


with  the  disdainful  Amenhotep   III   and   the   absorbed   and  negligent 

The  Kassites  were  expelled  after  almost  six  centuries  of  rule  as  disruptive 
as  the  similar  sway  of  the  Hyksos  in  Egypt.  The  disorder  continued  for 
four  hundred  years  more  under  obscure  Babylonian  rulers,  whose  poly- 
syllabic roster  might  serve  as  an  obbligato  to  Gray's  Elegy  ,t  until  the 
rising  power  of  Assyria  in  the  north  stretched  down  its  hand  and  brought 
Babylonia  under  the  kings  of  Nineveh.  When  Babylon  rebelled,  Sennach- 
erib destroyed  it  almost  completely;  but  the  genial  despotism  of  Esar- 
haddon  restored  it  to  prosperity  and  culture.  The  rise  of  the  Medes 
weakened  Assyria,  and  with  their  help  Nabopolassar  liberated  Babylonia, 
set  up  an  independent  dynasty,  and  dying,  bequeathed  this  second  Baby- 
lonian kingdom  to  his  son  Nebuchadrezzar  II,  villain  of  the  vengeful 
and  legendary  Book  of  Daniel.™  Nebuchadrezzar's  inaugural  address  to 
Marduk,  god-in-chief  of  Babylon,  reveals  a  glimpse  of  an  Oriental  mon- 
arch's aims  and  character: 

As  my  precious  life  do  I  love  thy  sublime  appearance!  Outside 
of  my  city  Babylon,  I  have  not  selected  among  all  settlements  any 
dwelling.  ...  At  thy  command,  O  merciful  Marduk,  may  the  house 
that  I  have  built  endure  forever,  may  I  be  satiated  with  its  splendor, 
attain  old  age  therein,  with  abundant  offspring,  and  receive  therein 
tribute  of  the  kings  of  all  regions,  from  all  mankind." 

He  lived  almost  up  to  his  hopes,  for  though  illiterate  and  not  unques- 
tionably sane,  he  became  the  most  powerful  ruler  of  his  time  in  the 
Near  East,  and  the  greatest  warrior,  statesman  and  builder  in  all  the  suc- 
cession of  Babylonian  kings  after  Hammurabi  himself.  When  Egypt 
conspired  with  Assyria  to  reduce  Babylonia  to  vassalage  again,  Nebuchad- 

*  The  Amarna  letters  are  dreary  reading,  full  of  adulation,  argument,  entreaty  and  com- 
plaint. Hear,  e.g.,  Burraburiash  II,  King  of  Karduniash  (in  Mesopotamia),  writing  to 
Amenhotep  HI  about  an  exchange  of  royal  gifts  in  which  Burraburiash  seems  to  have 
been  worsted:  "Ever  since  my  mother  and  thy  father  sustained  friendly  relations  with  one 
another,  they  exchanged  valuable  presents;  and  the  choicest  desire,  each  of  the  other,  they 
did  not  refuse.  Now  my  brother  (Amenhotep)  has  sent  me  as  a  present  (only)  two 
manehs  of  gold.  But  send  me  as  much  gold  as  thy  father;  and  if  it  be  less,  let  it  be  half 
of  what  thy  father  would  send.  Why  didst  thou  send  me  only  two  manehs  of  gold?"" 

t  Marduk-shapik-zeri,  Ninurta-nadin-sham,  Enlil-nadin-apli,  Itti-Marduk-balatu,  Marduk- 
shapik-zer-mati,  etc.  Doubtless  our  own  full  names,  linked  with  such  hyphens,  would 
make  a  like  cacophony  to  alien  ears. 


rezzar  met  the  Egyptian  hosts  at  Carchemish  (on  the  upper  reaches  of  the 
Euphrates),  and  almost  annihilated  them.  Palestine  and  Syria  then  fell 
easily  under  his  sway,  and  Babylonian  merchants  controlled  all  the  trade 
that  flowed  across  western  Asia  from  the  Persian  Gulf  to  the  Mediterran- 
ean Sea. 

Nebuchadrezzar  spent  the  tolls  of  this  trade,  the  tributes  of  these  sub- 
jects, and  the  taxes  of  his  people,  in  beautifying  his  capital  and  assuaging 
the  hunger  of  the  priests.  "Is  not  this  the  great  Babylon  that  I  built?"1* 
He  resisted  the  temptation  to  be  merely  a  conqueror;  he  sallied  forth  occa- 
sionally to  teach  his  subjects  the  virtues  of  submission,  but  for  the  most 
part  he  stayed  at  home,  making  Babylon  the  unrivaled  capital  of  the  Near 
East,  the  largest  and  most  magnificent  metropolis  of  the  ancient  world.1* 
Nabopolassar  had  laid  plans  for  the  reconstruction  of  the  city;  Nebuchad- 
rezzar used  his  long  reign  of  forty-three  years  to  carry  them  to  comple- 
tion. Herodotus,  who  saw  Babylon  a  century  and  a  half  later,  described 
it  as  "standing  in  a  spacious  plain,"  and  surrounded  by  a  wall  fifty-six 
miles  in  length,"  so  broad  that  a  four-horse  chariot  could  be  driven  along 
the  top,  and  enclosing  an  area  of  some  two  hundred  square  miles.18* 
Through  the  center  of  the  town  ran  the  palm-fringed  Euphrates,  busy 
with  commerce  and  spanned  by  a  handsome  bridge.19!  Practically  all  the 
better  buildings  were  of  brick,  for  stone  was  rare  in  Mesopotamia;  but 
the  bricks  were  often  faced  with  enameled  tiles  of  brilliant  blue,  yellow  or 
white,  adorned  with  animal  and  other  figures  in  glazed  relief,  which  remain 
to  this  day  supreme  in  their  kind.  Nearly  all  the  bricks  so  far  recovered 
from  the  site  of  Babylon  bear  the  proud  inscription:  "I  am  Nebuchad- 
rezzar, King  of  Babylon."31 

Approaching  the  city  the  traveler  saw  first— at  the  crown  of  a  very 
mountain  of  masonry— an  immense  and  lofty  ziggurat,  rising  in  seven  stages 
of  gleaming  enamel  to  a  height  of  650  feet,  crowned  with  a  shrine  con- 
taining a  massive  table  of  solid  gold,  and  an  ornate  bed  on  which,  each 
night,  some  woman  slept  to  await  the  pleasure  of  the  god.28  This  structure, 
taller  than  the  pyramids  of  Egypt,  and  surpassing  in  height  all  but  the 
latest  of  modern  buildings,  was  probably  the  "Tower  of  Babel"  of  He- 
braic myth,  the  many-storied  audacity  of  a  people  who  did  not  know 

*  Probably  this  included  not  only  the  city  proper  but  a  large  agricultural  hinterland 
within  the  walls,  designed  to  provide  the  teeming  metropolis  with  sustenance  in  time  of 

t  If  we  may  trust  Diodoms  Siculus,  a  tunnel  fifteen  feet  wide  and  twelve  feet  high 'con- 
nected the  two  banks.*' 


Yahveh,  and  whom  the  God  of  Hosts  was  supposed  to  have  confounded 
with  a  multiplicity  of  tongues.*  South  of  the  ziggurat  stood  the  gigantic 
Temple  of  Marduk,  tutelary  deity  of  Babylon.  Around  and  below  this 
temple  the  city  spread  itself  out  in  a  few  wide  and  brilliant  avenues,  crossed 
by  crowded  canals  and  narrow  winding  streets  alive,  no  doubt,  with  traffic 
and  bazaars,  and  Orientally  odorous  with  garbage  and  humanity.  Con- 
necting the  temples  was  a  spacious  "Sacred  Way,"  paved  with  asphalt- 
covered  bricks  overlaid  with  flags  of  limestone  and  red  breccia-,  over  this 
the  gods  might  pass  without  muddying  their  feet.  This  broad  avenue 
was  flanked  with  walls  of  colored  tile,  on  which  stood  out,  in  low  relief, 
one  hundred  and  twenty  brightly  enameled  lions,  snarling  to  keep  the 
impious  away.  At  one  end  of  the  Sacred  Way  rose  the  magnificent 
Ishtar  Gate,  a  massive  double  portal  of  resplendent  tiles,  adorned  with 
enameled  flowers  and  animals  of  admirable  color,  vitality,  and  line.f 

Six  hundred  yards  north  of  the  "Tower  of  Babel"  rose  a  mound  called 
Kasr,  on  which  Nebuchadrezzar  built  the  most  imposing  of  his  palaces. 
At  its  center  stood  his  principal  dwelling-place,  the  walls  of  finely  made 
yellow  brick,  the  floors  of  white  and  mottled  sandstone;  reliefs  of  vivid 
blue  glaze  adorned  the  surfaces,  and  gigantic  basalt  lions  guarded  the 
entrance.  Nearby,  supported  on  a  succession  of  superimposed  circular 
colonnades,  were  the  famous  Hanging  Gardens,  which  the  Greeks  in- 
cluded among  the  Seven  Wonders  of  the  World.  The  gallant  Nebuchad- 
rezzar had  built  them  for  one  of  his  wives,  the  daughter  of  Cyaxares, 
King  of  the  Medes;  this  princess,  unaccustomed  to  the  hot  sun  and  dust  of 
Babylon,  pined  for  the  verdure  of  her  native  hills.  The  topmost  terrace 
was  covered  with  rich  soil  to  the  depth  of  many  feet,  providing  space  and 
nourishment  not  merely  for  varied  flowers  and  plants,  but  for  the  largest 
and  most  deep-rooted  trees.  Hydraulic  engines  concealed  in  the  columns 
and  manned  by  shifts  of  slaves  carried  water  from  the  Euphrates  to  the 
highest  tier  of  the  gardens.24  Here,  seventy-five  feet  above  the  ground,  in 
the  cool  shade  of  tall  trees,  and  surrounded  by  exotic  shrubs  and  fragrant 
flowers,  the  ladies  of  the  royal  harem  walked  unveiled,  secure  from  the 
common  eye;  while,  in  the  plains  and  streets  below,  the  common  man  and 
woman  ploughed,  wove,  built,  carried  burdens,  and  reproduced  their 

*  Babel,  however,  does  not  mean  confusion  or  babble,  as  the  legend  supposes;  as  used  in 
the  word  Babylon  it  meant  the  Gate  of  God."13 

tA  reconstruction  of  the  Ishtar  Gate  can  be  seen  in  the  Vorderasiatisches  Museum, 



Hunting  -  Tillage  -  Food  -  Industry  -  Transport  -  The  perils 
of  commerce  —  Money -lenders  —  Slaves 

Part  of  the  country  was  still  wild  and  dangerous;  snakes  wandered  in 
the  thick  grass,  and  the  kings  of  Babylonia  and  Assyria  made  it  their  royal 
sport  to  hunt  in  hand-to-hand  conflict  the  lions  that  prowled  in  the  woods, 
posed  placidly  for  artists,  but  fled  timidly  at  the  nearer  approach  of  men. 
Civilization  is  an  occasional  and  temporary  interruption  of  the  jungle. 

Most  of  the  soil  was  tilled  by  tenants  or  by  slaves;  some  of  it  by  peasant 
proprietors.*  In  the  earlier  centuries  the  ground  was  broken  up  with  stone 
"hoes,  as  in  neolithic  tillage;  a  seal  dating  some  1400  B.C.  is  our  earliest 
representation  of  the  plough  in  Babylonia.  Probaby  this  ancient  and  hon- 
orable tool  had  already  a  long  history  behind  it  in  the  Land  between  the 
Rivers;  and  yet  it  was  modern  enough,  for  though  it  was  drawn  by  oxen 
in  the  manner  of  our  fathers,  it  had,  attached  to  the  plough,  as  in  Sumeria,  a 
tube  through  which  the  seed  was  sown  in  the  manner  of  our  children."8 
The  waters  of  the  rising  rivers  were  not  allowed  to  flood  the  land  as  in 
Egypt;  on  the  contrary,  every  farm  was  protected  from  the  inundation  by 
ridges  of  earth,  some  of  which  can  still  be  seen  today.  The  overflow  was 
guided  into  a  complex  network  of  canals,  or  stored  into  reservoirs,  from 
which  it  was  sluiced  into  the  fields  as  needed,  or  raised  over  the  ridges  by 
shadufs— buckets  lifted  and  lowered  on  a  pivoted  and  revolving  pole.  Neb- 
uchadrezzar distinguished  his  reign  by  building  many  canals,  and  gather- 
ing the  surplus  waters  of  the  overflow  into  a  reservoir,  one  hundred  and 
forty  miles  in  circumference,  which  nourished  by  its  outlets  vast  areas  of 
land."  Ruins  of  these  canals  can  be  seen  in  Mesopotamia  today,  and—as  if 
further  to  bind  the  quick  and  the  dead— the  primitive  shaduf  is  still  in  use  in 
the  valleys  of  the  Euphrates  and  the  Loire." 

So  watered,  the  land  produced  a  variety  of  cereals  and  pulses,  great  orchards 
of  fruits  and  nuts,  and  above  all,  the  date;  from  this  beneficent  concoction 
of  sun  and  soil  the  Babylonians  made  bread,  honey,  cake  and  other  delica- 
cies; they  mixed  it  with  meal  to  make  one  of  their  most  sustaining  foods; 
and  to  encourage  its  reproduction  they  shook  the  flowers  of  the  male  palm 
over  those  of  the  female."  From  Mesopotamia  the  grape  and  the  olive 
were  introduced  into  Greece  and  Rome  and  thence  into  western  Europe; 
from  nearby  Persia  came  the  peach;  and  from  the  shores  of  the  Black  Sea 
Lucullus  brought  the  cherry-tree  to  Rome.  Milk,  so  rare  in  the  distant 
Orient,  now  became  one  of  the  staple  foods  of  the  Near  East.  Meat  was 
rare  and  costly,  but  fish  from  the  great  streams  found  their  way  into  the 

CHAP,  tt)  BABYLONIA  227 

poorest  mouths.  And  in  the  evening,  when  the  peasant  might  have  been  dis- 
turbed by  thoughts  on  life  and  death,  he  quieted  memory  and  anticipation 
with  wine  pressed  from  the  date,  or  beer  brewed  from  die  corn. 

Meanwhile  others  pried  into  the  earth,  struck  oil,  and  mined  copper,  lead, 
iron,  silver  and  gold.  Strabo  tells  how  what  he  calls  "naphtha  or  liquid  as- 
phalt" was  taken  from  the  soil  of  Mesopotamia  then  as  now,  and  how  Alex- 
ander, hearing  that  this  was  a  kind  of  water  that  burned,  tested  the  report, 
incredulously  by  covering  a  boy  with  the  strange  fluid  and  igniting  hinr 
with  a  torch.80  Tools,  which  had  still  been  of  stone  in  the  days  of  Ham- 
murabi, began,  at  the  turn  of  the  last  millennium  before  Christ,  to  be  made  of 
bronze,  then  of  iron;  and  the  art  of  casting  metal  appeared.  Textiles  were 
woven  of  cotton  and  wool;  stuffs  were  dyed  and  embroidered  with  such 
skill  that  these  tissues  became  one  of  the  most  valued  exports  of  Babylonia, 
praised  to  the  skies  by  the  writers  of  Greece  and  Rome.81  As  far  back  as  we 
can  go  in  Mesopotamian  history  we  find  the  weaver's  loom  and  the  potter's 
wheel;  these  were  almost  the  only  machines.  Buildings  were  mostly  of 
adobe—clay  mixed  with  straw;  or  bricks  still  soft  and  moist  were  placed  one 
upon  the  other  and  allowed  to  dry  into  a  solid  wall  cemented  by  the  sun. 
It  was  observed  that  the  bricks  in  the  fireplace  became  harder  and  more 
durable  than  those  that  the  sun  had  baked;  the  process  of  hardening  them  in 
kilns  was  then  a  natural  development,  and  thenceforth  there  was  no  end  to 
the  making  of  bricks  in  Babylon.  Trades  multiplied  and  became  diversified 
and  skilled,  and  as  early  as  Hammurabi  industry  was  organized  into  guilds 
(called  "tribes")  of  masters  and  apprentices." 

Local  transport  used  wheeled  carts  drawn  by  patient  asses.88  The  horse 
is  first  mentioned  in  Babylonian  records  about  2100  B.C.,  as  ^the  ass  from 
the  East";  apparently  it  came  from  the  table-lands  of  Central  Asia,  conquered 
Babylonia  with  the  Kassites,  and  reached  Egypt  with  the  Hyksos.84  With 
this  new  means  of  locomotion  and  carriage,  trade  expanded  from  local  to 
foreign  commerce;  Babylon  grew  wealthy  as  the  commercial  hub  of  the 
Near  East,  and  the  nations  of  the  ancient  Mediterranean  world  were  drawn 
into  closer  contact  for  good  and  ill.  Nebuchadrezzar  facilitated  trade  by  im- 
proving the  highways;  "I  have  turned  inaccessible  tracks,"  he  reminds  the 
historian,  "into  serviceable  roads."*  Countless  caravans  brought  to  the  ba- 
zaars and  shops  of  Babylon  the  products  of  half  the  world.  From  India 
they  came  via  Kabul,  Herat  and  Ecbatana;  from  Egypt  via  Pelusium  and 
Palestine;  from  Asia  Minor  through  Tyre,  Sidon  and  Sardis  to  Carchemish, 
and  then  down  the  Euphrates.  As  a  result  of  all  this  trade  Babylon  became, 
under  Nebuchadrezzar,  a  thriving  and  noisy  market-place,  from  which  the 
wealthy  sought  refuge  in  residential  suburbs.  Note  the  contemporary  ring 
of  a  rich  suburbanite's  letter  to  King  Cyrus  of  Persia  (ca.  539  B.C.):  "Our 


estate  seemed  to  me  the  finest  in  the  world,  for  it  was  so  near  to  Babylon 
that  we  enjoyed  all  the  advantages  of  a  great  city,  and  yet  could  come  back 
1  home  and  be  rid  of  all  its  rush  and  worry."88 

Government  in  Mesopotamia  never  succeeded  in  establishing  such  eco- 
nomic order  as  that  which  the  Pharaohs  achieved  in  Egypt.  Commerce  was 
harassed  with  a  multiplicity  of  dangers  and  tolls;  the  merchant  did  not  know 
which  to  fear  the  more— the  robbers  that  might  beset  him  on  the  way,  or  the 
towns  and  baronies  that  exacted  heavy  fees  from  him  for  the  privilege  of 
using  their  roads.  It  was  safer,  where  possible,  to  take  the  great  national 
highway,  the  Euphrates,  which  Nebuchadrezzar  had  made  navigable  from 
the  Persian  Gulf  to  Thapsacus.87  His  campaigns  in  Arabia  and  his  subjuga- 
tion of  Tyre  opened  up  to  Babylonian  commerce  the  Indian  and  Mediterra- 
nean Seas,  but  these  opportunities  were  only  partially  explored.  For  on  the 
open  sea,  as  in  the  mountain  passes  and  the  desert  wastes,  perils  beset  the 
merchant  at  every  hour.  Vessels  were  large,  but  reefs  were  many  and 
treacherous;  navigation  was  not  yet  a  science;  and  at  any  moment  pirates,  or 
the  ambitious  dwellers  on  the  shore,  might  board  the  ships,  appropriate  the 
merchandise,  and  enslave  or  kill  the  crew.88  The  merchants  reimbursed 
themselves  for  such  losses  by  restricting  their  honesty  to  the  necessities  of 
each  situation. 

These  difficult  transactions  were  made  easier  by  a  well-developed  system 
of  finance.  The  Babylonians  had  no  coinage,  but  even  before  Ham- 
murabi they  used— besides  barley  and  corn— ingots  of  gold  and  silver  as 
standards  of  value  and  mediums  of  exchange.  The  metal  was  unstamped, 
and  was  weighed  at  each  transaction.  The  smallest  unit  of  currency  was 
the  shekel— a  half-ounce  of  silver  worth  from  $2.50  to  $5.00  of  our  con- 
temporary currency;  sixty  such  shekels  made  a  mina,  and  sixty  mlnas  made  a 
talent— from  $10,000  to  $2o,ooo.Mtt  Loans  were  made  in  goods  or  currency, 
but  at  a  high  rate^  of  interest,  fixed  by  the  state  at  20%  per  annum  for  loans  of 
money,  and  33%  for  loans  in  kind;  even  these  rates  were  exceeded  by  lenders 
who  could  hire  clever  scribes  to  circumvent  the  law.39  There  were  no  banks, 
but  certain  powerful  families  carried  on  from  generation  to  generation  the 
business  of  lending  money;  they  dealt  also  in  real  estate,  and  financed  indus- 
trial enterprises;40  and  persons  who  had  funds  on  deposit  with  such  men  could 
pay  their  obligations  by  written  drafts.41  The  priests  also  made  loans,  particu- 
larly to  finance  the  sowing  and  reaping  of  the  crops.  The  law  occasionally  took 
the  side  of  the  debtor:  e.g.,  if  a  peasant  mortgaged  his  farm,  and  through  storm 
or  drought  or  other  "act  of  God"  had  no  harvest  from  his  toil,  then  no  in- 
terest could  be  exacted  from  him  in  that  year.42  But  for  the  most  part  the 
law  was  written  with  an  eye  to  protecting  property  and  preventing  losses; 


it  was  a  principle  of  Babylonian  law  that  no  man  had  a  right  to  borrow 
money  unless  he  wished  to  be  held  completely  responsible  for  its  repay- 
ment; hence  the  creditor  could  seize  the  debtor's  slave  or  son  as  hostage 
for  an  unpaid  debt,  and  could  hold  him  for  not  more  than  three  years.  A 
plague  of  usury  was  the  price  that  Babylonian  industry,  like  our  own,  paid 
for  the  fertilizing  activity  of  a  complex  credit  system.48 

It  was  eggentially  a  commercial  civilization.  Most  of  the  documents  that 
have  come  down  from  it  are  of  a  business  character— sales,  loans,  contracts, 
partnerships,  commissions,  exchanges,  bequests,  agreements,  promissory  notes, 
and  the  like.  We  find  in  these  tablets  abundant  evidence  of  wealth,  and  a 
certain  materialistic  spirit  that  managed,  like  some  later  civilizations,  to  re- 
concile piety  with  greed.  We  see  in  the  literature  many  signs  of  a  busy  and 
prosperous  life,  but  we  find  also,  at  every  turn,  reminders  of  the  slavery 
that  underlies  all  cultures.  The  most  interesting  contracts  of  sale  from  the 
age  of  Nebuchadrezzar  are  those  that  have  to  do  with  slaves."  They  were 
recruited  from  captives  taken  in  battle,  from  slave-raids  carried  out  upon 
foreign  states  by  marauding  Bedouins,  and  from  the  reproductive  enthusiasm 
of  the  slaves  themselves.  Their  value  ranged  from  $20  to  $65  for  a  woman, 
and  from  $50  to  $100  for  a  man.46  Most  of  the  physical  work  in  the  towns 
was  done  by  them,  including  nearly  all  of  the  personal  service.  Female  slaves 
were  completely  at  the  mercy  of  their  purchaser,  and  were  expected  to  pro- 
vide him  with  bed  as  well  as  board;  it  was  understood  that  he  would  breed 
through  them  a  copious  supply  of  children,  and  those  slaves  who  were  not 
so  treated  felt  themselves  neglected  and  dishonored.40  The  slave  and  all  his 
belongings  were  his  master's  property:  he  might  be  sold  or  pledged  for  debt; 
he  might  be  put  to  death  if  his  master  thought  him  less  lucrative  alive  than 
dead;  if  he  ran  away  no  one  could  legally  harbor  him,  and  a  reward  was 
fixed  for  his  capture.  Like  the  free  peasant  he  was  subject  to  conscription 
for  both  the  army  and  the  corvee— i.e.,  for  forced  labor  in  such  public 
works  as  cutting  roads  and  digging  canals.  On  the  other  hand  the  slave's 
master  paid  his  doctor's  fees,  and  kept  him  moderately  alive  through  illness, 
slack  employment  and  old  age.  He  might  marry  a  free  woman,  and  his 
children  by  her  would  be  free;  half  his  property,  in  such  a  case,  went  on  his 
death  to  his  family.  He  might  be  set  up  in  business  by  his  master,  and  re- 
tain part  of  the  profits— with  which  he  might  then  buy  his  freedom;  or  his 
master  might  liberate  him  for  exceptional  or  long  and  faithful  service.  But 
only  a  few  slaves  achieved  such  freedom.  The  rest  consoled  themselves 
with  a  high  birth-rate,  until  they  became  more  numerous  than  the  free.  A 
great  slave-class  moved  like  a  swelling  subterranean  river  underneath  the 
Babylonian  state. 



The  Code  of  Hammurabi—The  powers  of  the  king— Trial  by 

ordeal  —   Lex  Talionis"  —  Forms  of  punishment  —  Codes  of 

'wages  and  prices— State  restoration  of  stolen  goods 

Such  a  society,  of  course,  never  dreamed  of  democracy;  its  economic 
character  necessitated  a  monarchy  supported  by  commercial  wealth  or 
feudal  privilege,  and  protected  by  the  judicious  distribution  of  legal  vio- 
lence. A  landed  aristocracy,  gradually  displaced  by  a  commercial  plutoc- 
racy, helped  to  maintain  social  control,  and  served  as  intermediary  between 
people  and  king.  The  latter  passed  his  throne  down  to  any  son  of  his 
choosing,  with  the  result  that  every  son  considered  himself  heir  apparent, 
formed  a  clique  of  supporters,  and,  as  like  as  not,  raised  a  war  of  suc- 
cession if  his  hopes  were  unfulfilled.47  Within  the  limits  of  this  arbitrary 
rule  the  government  was  carried  on  by  central  and  local  lords  or  admin- 
istrators appointed  by  the  king.  These  were  advised  and  checked  by 
provincial  or  municipal  assemblies  of  elders  or  notables,  who  managed  to 
maintain,  even  under  Assyrian  domination,  a  proud  measure  of  local 

Every  administrator,  and  usually  the  king  himself,  acknowledged  the 
guidance  and  authority  of  that  great  body  of  law  which  had  been  given 
form  under  Hammurabi,  and  had  maintained  its  substance,  despite  every 
change  of  circumstance  and  detail,  through  fifteen  centuries.  The  legal 
development  was  from  supernatural  to  secular  sanctions,  from  severity  to 
lenience,  and  from  physical  to  financial  penalties.  In  the  earlier  days  an 
appeal  to  the  gods  was  taken  through  trial  by  ordeal.  A  man  accused  of 
sorcery,  or  a  woman  charged  with  adultery,  was  invited  to  leap  into  the 
Euphrates;  and  the  gods  were  on  the  side  of  the  best  swimmers.  If  the 
woman  emerged  alive,  she  was  innocent;  if  the  "sorcerer"  was  drowned, 
his  accuser  received  his  property;  if  he  was  not,  he  received  the  property 
of  his  accuser.40  The  first  judges  were  priests,  and  to  the  end  of  Baby- 
lonian history  the  courts  were  for  the  most  part  located  in  the  temples;10 
but  already  in  the  days  of  Hammurabi  secular  courts  responsible  only  to 
the  government  were  replacing  the  judgment-seats  presided  over  by  the 

Penology  began  with  the  lex  talionis,  or  law  of  equivalent  retaliation. 
If  a  man  knocked  out  an  eye  or  a  tooth,  or  broke  a  limb,  of  a  patrician, 


precisely  the  same  was  to  be  done  to  him.81  If  a  house  collapsed  and  killed 
the  purchaser,  the  architect  or  builder  must  die;  if  the  accident  killed  the 
buyer's  son,  the  son  of  the  architect  or  builder  must  die;  if  a  man  struck 
a  girl  and  killed  her  not  he  but  his  daughter  must  suffer  the  penalty  of 
death."  Gradually  these  punishments  in  kind  were  replaced  by  awards  of 
damages;  a  payment  of  money  was  permitted  as  an  alternative  to  the 
physical  retaliation,"  and  later  the  fine  became  the  sole  punishment.  So 
the  eye  of  a  commoner  might  be  knocked  out  for  sixty  shekels  of  silver, 
and  the  eye  of  a  slave  might  be  knocked  out  for  thirty.54  For  the  penalty 
varied  not  merely  with  the  gravity  of  the  offense,  but  with  the  rank  of  the 
offender  and  the  victim.  A  member  of  the  aristocracy  was  subject  to 
severer  penalties  for  the  same  crime  than  a  man  of  the  people,  but  an  of- 
fense against  such  an  aristocrat  was  a  costly  extravagance.  A  plebeian  , 
striking  a  plebeian  was  fined  ten  shekels,  or  fifty  dollars;  to  strike  a  person 
of  title  or  property  cost  six  times  more."  From  such  dissuasions  the  law 
passed  to  barbarous  punishments  by  amputation  or  death.  A  man  who 
struck  his  father  had  his  hands  cut  off  ;M  a  physician  whose  patient  died,  or 
lost  an  eye,  as  the  result  of  an  operation,  had  his  fingers  cut  off;"  a  nurse 
who  knowingly  substituted  one  child  for  another  had  to  sacrifice  her 
breasts."  Death  was  decreed  for  a  variety  of  crimes:  rape,  kidnaping, 
brigandage,  burglary,  incest,  procurement  of  a  husband's  death  by  his  wife 
in  order  to  marry  another  man,  the  opening  or  entering  of  a  wine-shop 
by  a  priestess,  the  harboring  of  a  fugitive  slave,  cowardice  in  the  face  of 
the  enemy,  malfeasance  in  office,  careless  or  uneconomical  housewifery," 
or  malpractice  in  the  selling  of  beer."  In  such  rough  ways,  through  thou- 
sands of  years,  those  traditions  and  habits  of  order  and  self-restraint  were 
established  which  became  part  of  the  unconscious  basis  of  civilization. 

Within  certain  limits  the  state  regulated  prices,  wages  and  fees.  What 
the  surgeon  might  charge  was  established  by  law;  and  wages  were  fixed 
by  the  Code  of  Hammurabi  for  builders,  brickmakers,  tailors,  stone- 
masons, carpenters,  boatmen,  herdsmen,  and  laborers."  The  law  of  in- 
heritance made  the  man's  children,  rather  than  his  wife,  his  natural  and 
direct  heirs;  the  widow  received  her  dowry  and  her  wedding-gift,  and  re- 
mained head  of  the  household  as  long  as  she  lived.  There  was  no  right  of 
primogeniture;  the  sons  inherited  equally,  and  in  this  way  the  largest 
estates  were  soon  redivided,  and  the  concentration  of  wealth  was  in  some 
measure  checked."  Private  property  in  land  and  goods  was  taken  for 
granted  by  the  Code. 


We  find  no  evidence  of  lawyers  in  Babylonia,  except  for  priests  who 
might  serve  as  notaries,  and  the  scribe  who  would  write  for  pay  anything 
from  a  will  to  a  madrigal.  The  plaintiff  preferred  his  own  plea,  without 
the  luxury  of  terminology.  Litigation  was  discouraged;  the  very  first 
law  of  the  Code  reads,  with  almost  illegal  simplicity:  "If  a  man  bring 
an  accusation  against  a  man,  and  charge  him  with  a  (capital)  crime,  but 
cannot  prove  it,  the  accuser  shall  be  put  to  death."03  There  are  signs 
of  bribery,  and  of  tampering  with  witnesses.04  A  court  of  appeals,  staffed 
by  "the  King's  Judges,"  sat  at  Babylon,  and  a  final  appeal  might  be  car- 
ried to  the  king  himself.  There  was  nothing  in  the  Code  about  the 
rights  of  the  individual  against  the  state;  that  was  to  be  a  European  inno- 
vation. But  articles  22-24  provided,  if  not  political,  at  least  economic, 
protection.  "If  a  man  practise  brigandage  and  be  captured,  that  man 
shall  be  put  to  death.  If  the  brigand  be  not  captured,  the  man  who  has 
been  robbed  shall,  in  the  presence  of  the  god,  make  an  itemized  statement 
of  his  loss,  and  the  city  and  governor  within  whose  province  and  juris- 
diction the  robbery  was  committed  shall  compensate  him  for  whatever 
was  lost.  If  it  be  a  life  (that  was  lost),  the  city  and  governor  shall  pay 
one  mina  ($300)  to  the  heirs."  What  modern  city  is  so  well  governed 
that  it  would  dare  to  offer  such  reimbursements  to  the  victims  of  its  neg- 
ligence? Has  the  law  progressed  since  Hammurabi,  or  only  increased 
and  multiplied? 


Religion  and  the  state—The  junctions  and  powers  of  the  clergy— The 
lesser  gods— Marduk—lshtar— The  Babylonian  stories  of  the  Crea- 
tion and  the  Flood— The  love  of  Ishtar  and  Tammuz—The  de- 
scent of  Ishtar  into  Hell— The  death  and  resurrection  of 
Tammuz  —  Ritual  and  prayer —  Penitential  psahns  — Sin- 
Magic— Superstition 

The  power  of  the  king  was  limited  not  only  by  the  law  and  the  aris- 
tocracy, but  by  the  clergy.  Technically  the  king  was  merely  the  agent 
of  the  city  god.  Taxation  was  in  the  name  of  the  god,  and  found  its 
way  directly  or  deviously  into  the  temple  treasuries.  The  king  was  not 
really  king  in  the  eyes  of  the  people  until  he  was  invested  with  royal 
authority  by  the  priests,  "took  the  hands  of  Bel,"  and  conducted  the 


image  of  Marduk  in  solemn  procession  through  the  streets.  In  these 
ceremonies  the  monarch  was  dressed  as  a  priest,  symbolizing  the  union  of 
church  and  state,  and  perhaps  the  priestly  origin  of  the  kingship.  All  the 
glamor  of  the  supernatural  hedged  about  the  throne,  and  made  rebellion 
a  colossal  impiety  which  risked  not  only  the  neck  but  the  soul.  Even  the 
mighty  Hammurabi  received  his  laws  from  the  god.  From  the  patesis 
or  priest-governors  of  Sumeria  to  the  religious  coronation  of  Nebuchad- 
rezzar, Babylonia  remained  in  effect  a  theocratic  state,  always  "under  the 
thumb  of  the  priests."85 

The  wealth  of  the  temples  grew  from  generation  to  generation,  as  the 
uneasy  rich  shared  their  dividends  with  the  gods.  The  kings,  feeling  an 
especial  need  of  divine  forgiveness,  built  the  temples,  equipped  them  with 
furniture,  food  and  slaves,  deeded  to  them  great  areas  of  land,  and  as- 
signed to  them  an  annual  income  from  the  state.  When  the  army  won  a 
battle,  the  first  share  of  the  captives  and  the  spoils  went  to  the  temples; 
when  any  special  good  fortune  befell  the  king,  extraordinary  gifts  were 
dedicated  to  the  gods.  Certain  lands  were  required  to  pay  to  the  temples 
a  yearly  tribute  of  dates,  corn,  or  fruit;  if  they  failed,  the  temples  could 
foreclose  on  them;  and  in  this  way  the  lands  usually  came  into  pos- 
session by  the  priests.  Poor  as  well  as  rich  turned  over  to  the  temples 
as  much  as  they  thought  profitable  of  their  earthly  gains.  Gold,  silver, 
copper,  lapis  lazuli,  gems  and  precious  woods  accumulated  in  the  sacred 

As  the  priests  could  not  directly  use  or  consume  this  wealth,  they 
turned  it  into  productive  or  investment  capital,  and  became  the  greatest 
agriculturists,  manufacturers  and  financiers  of  the  nation.  Not  only  did 
they  hold  vast  tracts  of  land;  they  owned  a  great  number  of  slaves,  or  con- 
trolled hundreds  of  laborers,  who  were  hired  out  to  other  employers,  or 
worked  for  the  temples  in  their  divers  trades  from  the  playing  of  music 
to  the  brewing  of  beer."  The  priests  were  also  the  greatest  merchants 
and  financiers  of  Babylonia;  they  sold  the  varied  products  of  the  temple 
shops,  and  handled  a  large  proportion  of  the  country's  trade;  they  had 
a  reputation  for  wise  investment,  and  many  persons  entrusted  their  sav- 
ings to  them,  confident  of  a  modest  but  reliable  return.  They  made  loans 
on  more  lenient  terms  than  the  private  money-lenders;  sometimes  they 
lent  to  the  sick  or  the  poor  without  interest,  merely  asking  a  return  of  the 
principal  when  Marduk  should  smile  upon  the  borrower  again."  Finally, 


they  performed  many  legal  functions:  they  served  as  notaries,  attesting 
and  signing  contracts,  and  making  wills;  they  heard  and  decided  suits  and 
trials,  kept  official  records,  and  recorded  commercial  transactions. 

Occasionally  the  king  commandeered  some  of  the  temple  accumula- 
tions to  meet  an  expensive  emergency.  But  this  was  rare  and  dangerous,  for 
the  priests  had  laid  terrible  curses  upon  all  who  should  touch,  unpermit- 
ted,  the  smallest  jot  of  ecclesiastical  property.  Besides,  their  influence 
with  the  people  was  ultimately  greater  than  that  of  the  king,  and  they 
might  in  most  cases  depose  him  if  they  set  their  combined  wits  and  powers 
to  this  end.  They  had  also  the  advantage  of  permanence;  the  king  died, 
but  the  god  lived  on;  the  council  of  priests,  free  from  the  fortunes  of 
elections,  illnesses,  assassinations  and  wars,  had  a  corporate  perpetuity  that 
made  possible  long-term  and  patient  policies,  such  as  characterize  great 
religious  organizations  to  this  day.  The  supremacy  of  the  priests  under 
these  conditions  was  inevitable.  It  was  fated  that  the  merchants  should 
make  Babylon,  and  that  the  priests  should  enjoy  it. 

Who  were  the  gods  that  formed  the  invisible  constabulary  of  the 
state?  They  were  numerous,  for  the  imagination  of  the  people  was  limit- 
less, and  there  was  hardly  any  end  to  the  needs  that  deities  might  serve. 
An  official  census  of  the  gods,  undertaken  in  the  ninth  century  before 
Christ,  counted  them  as  some  65,000."  Every  town  had  its  tutelary 
divinity;  and  as,  in  our  own  time^ifrfTaith,  localities  and  villages,  after 
making  formal  acknowledgment  of  the  Supreme  Being,  worship  specific 
minor  gods  with  a  special  devotion,  so  Larsa  lavished  its  temples  on 
Shamash,  Uruk  on  Ishtar,  Ur  on  Nannar— for  the  Sumerian  pantheon  had 
survived  the  Sumerian  state.  The  gods  were  not  aloof  from  men;  most 
of  them  lived  on  earth  in  the  temples,  ate  with  a  hearty  appetite,  and 
through  nocturnal  visits  to  pious  women  gave  unexpected  children  to 
the  busy  citizens  of  Babylon.69 

Oldest  of  all  were  the  astronomic  gods:  Anu,  the  immovable  firmament, 
Shamash,  the  sun,  Nannar,  the  moon,  and  Bel  or  Baal,  the  earth  into  whose 
bosom  all  Babylonians  returned  after  death.70  Every  family  had  household 
gods,  to  whom  prayers  were  said  and  libations  poured  each  morning  and 
night;  every  individual  had  a  protective  divinity  (or,  as  we  should  say,  a 
guardian  angel)  to  keep  him  from  harm  and  joy;  and  genii  of  fertility  hov- 
ered beneficently  over  the  fields.  It  was  probably  out  of  this  multitude  of 
spirits  that  the  Jews  moulded  their  cherubim. 


We  do  not  find  among  the  Babylonians  such  signs  of  monotheism  as  appear 
in  Ikhnaton  and  the  Second  Isaiah.  Two  forces,  however,  brought  them  near 
to  it:  the  enlargement  of  the  state  by  conquest  and  growth  brought  local 
deities  under  the  supremacy  of  a  single  god;  and  several  of  the  cities  patrioti- 
cally conferred  omnipotence  upon  their  favored  divinities.  "Trust  in  Nebo," 
says  Nebo,  "trust  in  no  other  god";71  this  is  not  unlike  the  first  of  the  com- 
mandments given  to  the  Jews.  Gradually  the  number  of  the  gods  was  less- 
ened by  interpreting  the  minor  ones  as  forms  or  attributes  of  the  major  dei- 
ties. In  these  ways  the  god  of  Babylon,  Marduk,  originally  a  sun  god, 
became  sovereign  of  all  Babylonian  divinities.72  Hence  his  title,  Bel-Marduk— 
that  is,  Marduk  the  god.  To  him  and  to  Ishtar  the  Babylonians  sent  up  the 
most  eloquent  of  their  prayers. 

Ishtar  (Astarte  to  the  Greeks,  Ashtoreth  to  the  Jews)  interests  us 
not  only  as  analogue  of  the  Egyptian  Isis  and  prototype  of  the  Grecian 
Aphrodite  and  the  Roman  Venus,  but  as  the  formal  beneficiary  of  one 
of  the  strangest  of  Babylonian  customs.  She  was  Demeter  as  well  as 
Aphrodite— no  mere  goddess  of  physical  beauty  and  love,  but  the  gracious 
divinity  of  bounteous  motherhood,  the  secret  inspiration  of  the  growing 
soil,  and  the  creative  principle  everywhere.  It  is  impossible  to  find  much  * 
harmony,  from  a  modern  point  of  view,  in  the  attributes  and  functions  of 
Ishtar:  she  was  the  goddess  of  war  as  well  as  of  love,  of  prostitutes  as  well 
as  of  mothers;  she  called  herself  "a  compassionate  courtesan";78  she  was 
represented  sometimes  as  a  bearded  bisexual  deity,  sometimes  as  a  nude 
female  offering  her  breasts  to  suck;74  and  though  her  worshipers  repeat- 
edly addressed  her  as  "The  Virgin,"  "The  Holy  Virgin,"  and  "The 
Virgin  Mother,"  this  merely  meant  that  her  amours  were  free  from  all 
taint  of  wedlock.  Gilgamesh  rejected  her  advances  on  the  ground  that 
she  could  not  be  trusted;  had  she  not  once  loved,  seduced,  and  then  slain, 
a  lion?78  It  is  clear  that  we  must  put  our  own  moral  code  to  one  side  if 
we  are  to  understand  her.  Note  with  what  fervor  the  Babylonians  could 
lift  up  to  her  throne  litanies  of  laudation  only  less  splendid  than  those  which 
a  tender  piety  once  raised  to  the  Mother  of  God: 

I  beseech  thee,  Lady  of  Ladies,  Goddess  of  Goddesses,  Ishtar,  Queen 

of  all  cities,  leader  of  all  men. 
Thou  art  the  light  of  the  world,  thou  art  the  light  of  heaven,  mighty 

daughter  of  Sin  (the  moon-god).  .  .  . 
Supreme  is  thy  might,  O  Lady,  exalted  art  thou  above  all  gods. 


Thou  renderest  judgment,  and  thy  decision  is  righteous. 

Unto  thec  are  subject  the  laws  of  the  earth  and  the  laws  of  heaven, 

the  laws  of  the  temples  and  the  shrines,  the  laws  of  the  private 

apartment  and  the  secret  chamber. 
Where  is  the  place  where  thy  name  is  not,  and  where  is  the  spot 

where  thy  commandments  are  not  known? 
At  thy  name  the  earth  and  the  heavens  shake,  and  the  gods  they 

tremble.  .  .  . 
Thou  lookest  upon  the  oppressed,  and  to  the  down-trodden  thou 

bringest  justice  every  day. 

How  long,  Queen  of  Heaven  and  Earth,  how  long, 
How  long,  Shepherdess  of  pale-faced  men,  wilt  thou  tarry? 
How  long,  O  Queen  whose  feet  are  not  weary,  and  whose  knees 

make  haste? 

How  long,  Lady  of  Hosts,  Lady  of  Battles? 
Glorious  one  whom  all  the  spirits  of  heaven  fear,  who  subduest  all 

angry  gods;  mighty  above  all  rulers;  who  boldest  the  reins  of  kings. 
Opener  of  the  womb  of  all  women,  great  is  thy  light. 
Shining  light  of  heaven,  light  of  the  world,  cnlightencr  of  all  the 

places  where  men  dwell,  who  gatherest  together  the  hosts  of  the 


Goddess  of  men,  Divinity  of  women,  thy  counsel  passeth  under- 
Where  thou  glancest,  the  dead  come  to  life,  and  the  sick  rise  and 

walk;  the  mind  of  the  diseased  is  healed  when  it  looks  upon  thy 


How  long,  O  Lady,  shall  mine  enemy  triumph  over  me? 
Command,  and  at  thy  command  the  angry  god  will  turn  back. 
Ishtar  is  great!    Ishtar  is  Queen!    My  Lady  is  exalted,  my  Lady  is 

Queen,  Innini,  the  mighty  daughter. of  Sin. 
There  is  none  like  unto  her.76 

With  these  gods  as  dramatis  persons  the  Babylonians  constructed  myths 
which,  have  in  large  measure  come  down  to  us,  through  the  Jews,  as  part 
of  our  own  religious  lore.  There  was  first  of  all  the  myth  of  the  crea- 
tion. In  the  beginning  was  Chaos.  "In  the  time  when  nothing  which  was 
called  heaven  existed  above,  and  when  nothing  below  had  yet  received 
the  name  of  earth,  Apsu,  the  Ocean,  who  first  was  their  father,  and 
Tiamat,  Chaos,  who  gave  birth  to  them  all,  mingled  their  waters  in  one." 
Things  slowly  began  to  grow  and  take  form;  but  suddenly  the  monster- 


goddess  Tiamat  set  out  to  destroy  all  the  other  gods,  and  to  make  her- 
self—Chaos—supreme.  A  mighty  revolution  ensued  in  which  all  order  was 
destroyed.  Then  another  god,  Marduk,  slew  Tiamat  with  her  own  medi- 
cine by  casting  a  hurricane  of  wind  into  her  mouth  as  she  opened  it  to 
swallow  him;  then  he  thrust  his  lance  into  Tiamat's  wind-swollen  paunch, 
and  the  goddess  of  Chaos  blew  up.  Marduk,  "recovering  his  calm,"  says  the 
legend,  split  the  dead  Tiamat  into  two  longitudinal  halves,  as  one  does 
a  fish  for  drying;  "then  he  hung  up  one  of  the  halves  on  high,  which  be- 
came the  heavens;  the  other  half  he  spread  out  under  his  feet  to  form  the 
earth."77  This  is  as  much  as  we  yet  know  about  creation.  Perhaps  the 
ancient  poet  meant  to  suggest  that  the  only  creation  of  which  we  can 
know  anything  is  the  replacement  of  chaos  with  order,  for  in  the  end 
this  is  the  essence  of  art  and  civilization.  We  should  remember,  however, 
that  the  defeat  of  Chaos  is  only  a  myth.* 

Having  moved  heaven  and  earth  into  place,  Marduk  undertook  to 
knead  earth  with  his  blood  and  thereby  make  men  for  the  service  of  the 
gods.  Mesopotamian  legends  differed  on  the  precise  way  in  which  this 
was  done;  they  agreed  in  general  that  man  was  fashioned  by  the  deity 
from  a  lump  of  clay.  Usually  they  represented  him  as  living  at  first  not 
in  a  paradise  but  in  bestial  simplicity  and  ignorance,  until  a  strange  mon- 
ster called  Cannes,  half  fish  and  half  philosopher,  taught  him  the  arts 
and  sciences,  the  rules  for  founding  cities,  and  the  principles  of  law;  after 
which  Cannes  plunged  into  the  sea,  and  wrote  a  book  on  the  history  of 
civilization.79  Presently,  however,  the  gods  became  dissatisfied  with  the 
men  whom  they  had  created,  and  sent  a  great  flood  to  destroy  them  and 
all  their  works.  The  god  of  wisdom,  Ea,  took  pity  on  mankind,  and 
resolved  to  save  one  man  at  least— Shamash-napishtim— and  his  wife.  The 
flood  raged;  men  "encumbered  the  sea  like  fishes'  spawn."  Then  sud- 
denly the  gods  wept  and  gnashed  their  teeth  at  their  own  folly,  asking 
themselves,  "Who  will  make  the  accustomed  offerings  now?"  But  Sham- 
ash-napishtim had  built  an  ark,  had  survived  the  flood,  had  perched  on 
the  mountain  of  Nisir,  and  had  sent  out  a  reconnoitering  dove;  now  he 
decided  to  sacrifice  to  the  gods,  who  accepted  his  gifts  with  surprise  and 
gratitude.  "The  gods  snuffed  up  the  odor,  the  gods  snuffed  up  the  ex- 
cellent odor,  the  gods  gathered  like  flies  above  the  offering."80 

*  The  Babylonian  story  of  creation  consists  of  seven  tablets  (one  for  each  day  of  crea- 
tion) found  in  the  ruins  of  Ashurbanipal's  library  at  Kuyunjik  (Nineveh)  in  1854;  they 
are  a  copy  of  a  legend  that  came  down  to  Babylonia  and  Assyria  from  Sumeria.78 


Lovelier  than  this  vague  memory  of  some  catastrophic  inundation  is 
the  vegetation  myth  of  Ishtar  and  Tammuz.  In  the  Sumerian  f orm  of  the 
tale  Tammuz  is  Ishtar's  young  brother;  in  the  Babylonian  form  he  is  some- 
times her  lover,  sometimes  her  son;  both  forms  seem  to  have  entered  into 
the  myths  of  Venus  and  Adonis,  Demeter  and  Persephone,  and  a  hun- 
dred scattered  legends  of  death  and  resurrection.  Tammuz,  son  of  the 
great  god  Ea,  is  a  shepherd  pasturing  his  flock  under  the  great  tree  Erida 
(which  covers  the  whole  earth  with  its  shade)  when  Ishtar,  always  in- 
satiable, falls  in  love  with  him,  and  chooses  him  to  be  the  spouse  of  her 
youth.  But  Tammuz,  like  Adonis,  is  gored  to  death  by  a  wild  boar,  and 
descends,  like  all  the  dead,  into  that  dark  subterranean  Hades  which  the 
Babylonians  called  Aralu,  and  over  which  they  set  as  ruler  Ishtar's 
jealous  sister,  Ereshkigal.  Ishtar,  mourning  inconsolably,  resolves  to  go 
down  to  Aralu  and  restore  Tammuz  to  life  by  bathing  his  wounds  in  the 
waters  of  a  healing  spring.  Soon  she  appears  at  the  gates  of  Hades  in  all 
her  imperious  beauty,  and  demands  entrance.  The  tablets  tell  the  story 

When  Ereshkigal  heard  this, 

As  when  one  hews  down  a  tamarisk  (she  trembled?). 

As  when  one  cuts  a  reed  (she  shook?). 

"What  has  moved  her  heart,  what  has  (stirred)  her  liver? 

Ho,  there,  (does)  this  one  (wish  to  dwell)  with  me? 

To  eat  clay  as  food,  to  drink  (dust?)  as  wine? 

I  weep  for  the  men  who  have  left  their  wives; 

I  weep  for  the  wives  torn  from  the  embrace  of  their  husbands; 

For  the  little  ones  (cut  off)  before  their  time. 

Go,  gate-keeper,  open  thy  gate  for  her, 

Deal  with  her  according  to  the  ancient  decree." 

The  ancient  decree  is  that  none  but  the  nude  shall  enter  Aralu.  There- 
fore at  each  of  the  successive  gates  through  which  Ishtar  must  pass,  the 
keeper  divests  her  of  some  garment  or  ornament:  first  her  crown,  then 
her  ear-rings,  then  her  necklace,  then  the  ornaments  from  her  bosom, 
then  her  many-jeweled  girdle,  then  the  spangles  from  her  hands  and 
feet,  and  lastly  her  loin-cloth;  and  Ishtar,  protesting  gracefully,  yields. 

Now  when  Ishtar  had  gone  down  into  the  land  of  no  return, 
Ereshkigal  saw  her  and  was  angered  at  her  presence. 


Ishtar  without  reflection  threw  herself  at  her. 

Ereshkigal  opened  her  mouth  and  spoke 

To  Namtar,  her  messenger.  .  .  . 

"Go,  Namtar,  (imprison  her?)  in  my  palace. 

Send  against  her  sixty  diseases, 

Eye  disease  against  her  eyes, 

Disease  of  the  side  against  her  side, 

Foot-disease  against  her  foot, 

Heart-disease  against  her  heart, 

Head-disease  against  her  head, 

Against  her  whole  being." 

While  Ishtar  is  detained  in  Hades  by  these  sisterly  attentions,  the  earth, 
missing  the  inspiration  of  her  presence,  forgets  incredibly  all  the  arts  and 
ways  of  love:  plant  no  longer  fertilizes  plant,  vegetation  languishes,  ani- 
mals experience  no  heat,  men  cease  to  yearn. 

After  the  lady  Ishtar  had  gone  down  into  the  land  of  no  return, 
The  bull  did  not  mount  the  cow,  the  ass  approached  not  the  she-ass; 
To  the  maid  in  the  street  no  man  drew  near; 
The  man  slept  in  his  apartment, 
The  maid  slept  by  herself. 

Population  begins  to  diminish,  and  the  gods  note  with  alarm  a  sharp 
decline  in  the  number  of  offerings  from  the  earth.  In  panic  they  command 
Ereshkigal  to  release  Ishtar.  It  is  done,  but  Ishtar  refuses  to  return  to 
the  surface  of  the  earth  unless  she  is  allowed  to  take  Tammuz  with  her. 
She  wins  her  point,  passes  triumphantly  through  the  seven  gates,  receives 
her  loin-cloth,  her  spangles,  her  girdle,  her  pectorals,  her  necklace,  her 
ear-rings  and  her  crown.  As  she  appears  plants  grow  and  bloom  again, 
the  land  swells  with  food,  and  every  animal  resumes  the  business  of  re- 
producing his  kind."  Love,  stronger  than  death,  is  restored  to  its  rightful 
place  as  master  of  gods  and  men.  To  the  modern  scholar  it  is  only  an  ad- 
mirable legend,  symbolizing  delightfully  the  yearly  death  and  rebirth  of 
the  soil,  and  that  omnipotence  of  Venus  which  Lucretius  was  to  cele- 
brate in  his  own  strong  verse;  to  the  Babylonians  it  was  sacred  history, 
faithfully  believed  and  annually  commemorated  in  a  day  of  mourning  and 
wailing  for  the  dead  Tammuz,  followed  by  riotous  rejoicing  over  his 


Nevertheless  the  Babylonian  derived  no  satisfaction  from  the  idea  of  per- 
sonal immortality.  His  religion  was  terrestrially  practical;  when  he  prayed 
he  asked  not  for  celestial  rewards  but  for  earthly  goods;*  he  could  not  trust 
his  gods  beyond  the  grave.  It  is  true  that  one  text  speaks  of  Marduk  as  he 
"who  gives  back  life  to  the  dead,"8*  and  the  story  of  the  flood  represents  its 
two  survivors  as  living  forever.  But  for  the  most  part  the  Babylonian  con- 
ception of  another  life  was  like  that  of  the  Greeks:  dead  men—saints  and  vil- 
lains, geniuses  and  idiots,  alike— went  to  a  dark  and  shadowy  realm  within 
the  bowels  of  the  earth,  and  none  of  them  saw  the  light  again.  There  was  a 
heaven,  but  only  for  the  gods;  the  Aralu  to  which  all  men  descended  was 
a  place  frequently  of  punishment,  never  of  joy;  there  the  dead  lay  bound 
hand  and  foot  forever,  shivering  with  cold,  and  subject  to  hunger  and 
thirst  unless  their  children  placed  food  periodically  in  their  graves.85  Those 
who  had  been  especially  wicked  on  earth  were  subjected  to  horrible  tortures; 
leprosy  consumed  them,  or  some  other  of  the  diseases  which  Nergal  and  Allat, 
male  and  female  lords  of  Aralu,  had  arranged  for  their  rectification. 

Most  bodies  were  buried  in  vaults;  a  few  were  cremated,  and  their  remains 
were  preserved  in  urns.80  The  dead  body  was  not  embalmed,  but  professional 
mourners  washed  and  perfumed  it,  clad  it  presentably,  painted  its  checks, 
darkened  its  eyelids,  put  rings  upon  its  fingers,  and  provided  it  with  a  change 
of  linen.  If  the  corpse  was  that  of  a  woman  it  was  equipped  with  scent- 
bottles,  combs,  cosmetic  pencils,  and  eye-paint  to  preserve  its  fragrance  and 
complexion  in  the  nether  world.*7  If  not  properly  buried  the  dead  would 
torment  the  living;  if  not  buried  at  all,  the  soul  would  prowl  about  sewers 
and  gutters  for  food,  and  might  afflict  an  entire  city  with  pestilence.88  It  was 
a  medley  of  ideas  not  as  consistent  as  Euclid,  but  sufficing  to  prod  the  simple 
Babylonian  to  keep  his  gods  and  priests  well  fed. 

The  usual  offering  was  food  and  drink,  for  these  had  the  advantage  that  if 
they  were  not  entirely  consumed  by  the  gods  the  surplus  need  not  go  to 
waste.  A  frequent  sacrifice  on  Babylonian  altars  was  the  lamb;  and  an  old 
Babylonian  incantation  strangely  anticipates  the  symbolism  of  Judaism  and 
Christianity:  "The  lamb  as  a  substitute  for  a  man,  the  lamb  he  gives  for  his 
life."89  Sacrifice  was  a  complex  ritual,  requiring  the  expert  services  of  a  priest; 
every  act  and  word  of  the  ceremony  was  settled  by  sacred  tradition,  and 
any  amateur  deviation  from  these  forms  might  mean  that  the  gods  would  eat 
without  listening.  In  general,  to  the  Babylonian,  religion  meant  correct 
ritual  rather  than  the  good  life.  To  do  one's  duty  to  the  gods  one  had  to 
offer  proper  sacrifice  to  the  temples,  and  recite  the  appropriate  prayers;90  for 
the  rest  he  might  cut  out  the  eyes  of  his  fallen  enemy,  cut  off  the  hands  and 
feet  of  captives,  and  roast  their  remainders  alive  in  a  furnace,01  without  much 
offense  to  heaven.  To  participate  in— or  reverently  to  attend— long  and  solemn 


processions  like  those  in  which  the  priests  carried  from  sanctuary  to  sanc- 
tuary the  image  of  Marduk,  and  performed  the  sacred  drama  of  his  death 
and  resurrection;  to  anoint  the  idols  with  sweet-scented  oils,*  to  burn 
incense  before  them,  clothe  them  with  rich  vestments,  or  adorn  them  with 
jewelry;  to  offer  up  the  virginity  of  their  daughters  in  the  great  festival  of 
Ishtar;  to  put  food  and  drink  before  the  gods,  and  to  be  generous  to  the 
priests— these  were  the  essential  works  of  the  devout  Babylonian  soul.98 

Perhaps  we  misjudge  him,  as  doubtless  the  future  will  misjudge  us  from 
the  fragments  that  accident  will  rescue  from  our  decay.  Some  of  the 
finest  literary  relics  of  the  Babylonians  are  prayers  that  breathe  a  profound 
and  sincere  piety.  Hear  the  proud  Nebuchadrezzar  humbly  addressing 

Without  thee,  Lord,  what  could  there  be 

For  the  king  thou  lovest,  and  dost  call  his  name? 

Thou  shalt  bless  his  title  as  thou  wilt, 

And  unto  him  vouchsafe  a  path  direct. 

I,  the  prince  obeying  thee, 

Am  what  thy  hands  have  made. 

'Tis  thou  who  art  my  creator, 

Entrusting  me  with  the  rule  of  hosts  of  men. 

According  to  thy  mercy,  Lord,  .  .  . 

Turn  into  loving-kindness  thy  dread  power, 

And  make  to  spring  up  in  my  heart 

A  reverence  for  thy  divinity. 

Give  as  thou  thinkest  best.04 

The  surviving  literature  abounds  in  hymns  full  of  that  passionate  self 
abasement  with  which  the  Semite  tries  to  control  and  conceal  his  pride. 
Many  of  them  take  the  character  of  "penitential  psalms,"  and  prepare 
us  for  the  magnificent  feeling  and  imagery  of  "David";  who  knows  bu* 
they  served  as  models  for  that  many-headed  Muse? 

I,  thy  servant,  full  of  sighs  cry  unto  thee. 

Thou  acceptest  the  fervent  prayer  of  him  who  is  burdened  with  sin. 

Thou  lookest  upon  a  man,  and  that  man  lives.  .  .  . 

Look  with  true  favor  upon  me,  and  accept  my  supplication.  .  .  . 

•Therefore  Tammuz  was  called  "The  Anointed."91 


And  then,  as  if  uncertain  of  the  sex  of  the  god- 
How  long,  my  god, 

How  long,  my  goddess,  until  thy  face  be  turned  to  me? 
How  long,  known  and  unknown  god,  until  the  anger  of  thy  heart 

shall  be  appeased? 
How  long,  known  and  unknown  goddess,  until  thy  unfriendly  heart 

be  appeased? 

Mankind  is  perverted,  and  has  no  judgment; 
Of  all  men  who  are  alive,  who  knows  anything? 
They  do  not  know  whether  they  do  good  or  evil. 
O  Lord,  do  not  cast  aside  thy  servant; 
He  is  cast  into  the  mire;  take  his  hand! 
The  sin  which  I  have  sinned,  turn  to  mercy! 
The  iniquity  which  I  have  committed,  let  the  wind  carry  away! 
My  many  transgressions  tear  off  like  a  garment! 
My  god,  my  sins  are  seven  times  seven;  forgive  my  sins! 
My  goddess,  my  sins  are  seven  times  seven;  forgive  my  sins!  .  .  . 
Forgive  my  sins,  and  I  will  humble  myself  before  thee. 
May  thy  heart,  as  the  heart  of  a  mother  who  hath  borne  children, 

be  glad; 
As  a  mother  who  hath  borne  children,  as  a  father  who  hath  begotten, 

may  it  be  glad!" 

Such  psalms  and  hymns  were  sung  sometimes  by  the  priests,  sometimes 
by  the  congregation,  sometimes  by  both  in  strophe  and  antistrophe.  Per- 
haps the  strangest  circumstance  about  them  is  that— like  all  the  religious 
literature  of  Babylon— they  were  written  in  the  ancient  Sumerian  lan- 
guage, which  served  the  Babylonian  and  Assyrian  churches  precisely  as 
Latin  serves  the  Roman  Catholic  Church  today.  And  just  as  a  Catholic 
hymnal  may  juxtapose  the  Latin  text  to  a  vernacular  translation,  so  some 
of  the  hymns  that  have  come  down  to  us  from  Mesopotamia  have  a 
Babylonian  or  Assyrian  translation  written  between  the  lines  of  the 
"classic"  Sumerian  original,  in  the  fashion  of  a  contemporary  schoolboy's 
"interlinear."  And  as  the  form  of  these  hymns  and  rituals  led  to  the 
Psalms  of  the  Jews  and  the  liturgy  of  the  Roman  Church,  so  their  content 
presaged  the  pessimistic  and  sin-struck  plaints  of  the  Jews,  the  early 
Christians,  and  the  modern  Puritans.  The  sense  of  sin,  though  it  did  not 
interfere  victoriously  in  Babylonian  life,  filled  the  Babylonian  chants, 
and  rang  a  note  that  survives  in  all  Semitic  liturgies  and  their  anti-Semitic 


derivatives.  "Lord,"  cries  one  hymn,  "my  sins  are  many,  great  are  my 
misdeeds!  ...  I  sink  under  affliction,  I  can  no  longer  raise  my  head;  I  turn 
to  my  merciful  God  to  call  upon  him,  and  I  groan!  .  .  .  Lord,  reject  not 
thy  servant!"" 

These  groanings  were  rendered  more  sincere  by  the  Babylonian  concep- 
tion of  sin.  Sin  was  no  mere  theoretical  state  of  the  soul;  like  sickness  it  was 
the  possession  of  the  body  by  a  demon  that  might  destroy  it.  Prayer  was  in 
the  nature  of  an  incantation  against  a  demon  that  had  come  down  upon  the 
individual  out  of  the  ocean  of  magic  forces  in  which  the  ancient  Orient 
lived  and  moved.  Everywhere,  in  the  Babylonian  view,  these  hostile  demons 
lurked:  they  hid  in  strange  crannies,  slipped  through  doors  or  even  through 
bolts  and  sockets,  and  pounced  upon  their  victims  in  the  form  of  illness  or 
madness  whenever  some  sin  had  withdrawn  for  a  moment  the  beneficent 
guardianship  of  the  gods.  Giants,  dwarfs,  cripples,  above  all,  women,  had 
sometimes  the  power,  even  with  a  glance  of  the  "evil  eye,"  to  infuse  such  a 
destructive  spirit  into  the  bodies  of  those  toward  whom  they  were  ill-dis- 
posed. Partial  protection  against  these  demons  was  provided  by  the  use  of 
magic  amulets,  talismans  and  kindred  charms;  images  of  the  gods,  carried  on 
the  body,  would  usually  suffice  to  frighten  the  devils  away.  Little  stones 
strung  on  a  thread  or  a  chain  and  hung  about  the  neck  were  especially 
effective,  but  care  had  to  be  taken  that  the  stones  were  such  as  tradition  asso- 
ciated with  good  luck,  and  the  thread  had  to  be  of  black,  white  or  red 
according  to  the  purpose  in  view.  Thread  spun  from  virgin  kids  was  par- 
ticularly powerful."7  But  in  addition  to  such  means  it  was  wise  also  to  exor- 
cise the  demon  by  fervent  incantation  and  magic  ritual— for  example,  by 
sprinkling  the  body  with  water  taken  from  the  sacred  streams— the  Tigris  or 
the  Euphrates.  Or  an  image  of  the  demon  could  be  made,  placed  on  a  boat, 
and  sent  over  the  water  with  a  proper  formula;  if  the  boat  could  be  made 
to  capsize,  so  much  the  better.  The  demon  might  be  persuaded,  by  the  appro- 
priate incantation,  to  leave  its  human  victim  and  enter  an  animal— a  bird,  a 
pig,  most  frequently  a  lamb.*8 

Magic  formulas  for  the  elimination  of  demons,  the  avoidance  of  evil  and 
the  prevision  of  the  future  constitute  the  largest  category  in  the  Babylonian 
writings  found  in  the  library  of  Ashurbanipal.  Some  of  the  tablets  are 
manuals  of  astrology;  others  arc  lists  of  omens  celestial  and  terrestrial,  with 
expert  advice  for  reading  them;  others  are  treatises  on  the  interpretation  of 
dreams,  rivaling  in  their  ingenious  incredibility  the  most  advanced  products 
of  modern  psychology;  still  others  offer  instruction  in  divining  the  future  by 
examining  the  entrails  of  animals,  or  by  observing  the  form  and  position  of  a 


drop  of  oil  let  fall  into  a  jar  of  water.8*  Hepatoscopy— observation  of  the 
liver  of  animals— was  a  favorite  method  of  divination  among  the  Babylonian 
priests,  and  passed  from  them  into  the  classical  world;  for  the  liver  was 
believed  to  be  the  seat  of  the  mind  in  both  animals  and  men.  No  king  would 
undertake  a  campaign  or  advance  to  a  battle,  no  Babylonian  would  risk  a 
crucial  decision  or  begin  an  enterprise  of  great  moment,  without  employing 
a  priest  or  a  soothsayer  to  read  the  omens  for  him  in  one  or  another  of  these 
recondite  ways. 

Never  was  a  civilization  richer  in  superstitions.  Every  turn  of  chance 
from  the  anomalies  of  birth  to  the  varieties  of  death  received  a  popular, 
sometimes  an  official  and  sacerdotal,  interpretation  in  magical  or  super- 
natural terms.  Every  movement  of  the  rivers,  every  aspect  of  the  stars, 
every  dream,  every  unusual  performance  of  man  or  beast,  revealed  the 
future  to  the  properly  instructed  Babylonian.  The  fate  of  a  king  could  be 
forecast  by  observing  the  movements  of  a  dog,100  just  as  we  foretell  the 
length  of  the  winter  by  spying  upon  the  groundhog.  The  superstitions 
of  Babylonia  seem  ridiculous  to  us,  because  they  differ  superficially  from 
our  own.  There  is  hardly  an  absurdity  of  the  past  that  cannot  be  found 
flourishing  somewhere  in  the  present.  Underneath  all  civilization,  ancient 
or  modern,  moved  and  still  moves  a  sea  of  magic,  superstition  and  sorcery. 
Perhaps  they  will  remain  when  the  works  of  our  reason  have  passed  away. 


Religion  divorced  from  morals— Sacred  prostitution— Free  love- 
Marriage  —  Adultery  —  Divorce  —  The  position  of  'woman  — 
The  relaxation  of  morals 

This  religion,  with  all  its  failings,  probably  helped  to  prod  the  common 
Babylonian  into  some  measure  of  decency  and  civic  docility,  else  we 
should  be  hard  put  to  explain  the  generosity  of  the  kings  to  the  priests. 
Apparently,  however,  it  had  no  influence  upon  the  morals  of  the  upper 
classes  in  the  later  centuries,  for  (in  the  eyes  and  words  of  her  prejudiced 
enemies)  the  "whore  of  Babylon"  was  a  "sink  of  iniquity,"  and  a  scandal- 
ous example  of  luxurious  laxity  to  all  the  ancient  world.  Even  Alexander, 
who  was  not  above  dying  of  drinking,  was  shocked  by  the  morals  of 

The  most  striking  feature  of  Babylonian  life,  to  an  alien  observer,  was 
the  custom  known  to  us  chiefly  from  a  famous  page  in  Herodotus: 


Every  native  woman  is  obliged,  once  in  her  life,  to  sit  in  the  tem- 
ple of  Venus,  and  have  intercourse  with  some  stranger.  And  many 
disdaining  to  mix  with  the  rest,  being  proud  on  account  of  their 
wealth,  come  in  covered  carriages,  and  take  up  their  station  at  the 
temple  with  a  numerous  train  of  servants  attending  them.  But  the 
far  greater  part  do  thus:  many  sit  down  in  the  temple  of  Venus, 
wearing  a  crown  of  cord  round  their  heads;  some  are  continually 
coming  in,  and  others  are  going  out.  Passages  marked  out  in  a 
straight  line  lead  in  every  direction  through  the  women,  along  which 
strangers  pass  and  make  their  choice.  When  a  woman  has  once 
seated  herself  she  must  not  return  home  till  some  stranger  has  thrown 
a  piece  of  silver  into  her  lap,  and  lain  with  her  outside  the  temple. 
He  who  throws  the  silver  must  say  thus:  "I  beseech  the  goddess 
Mylitta  to  favor  thee";  for  the  Assyrians  call  Venus  Mylitta.*  The 
silver  may  be  ever  so  small,  for  she  will  not  reject  it,  inasmuch  as  it 
is  not  lawful  for  her  to  do  so,  for  such  silver  is  accounted  sacred. 
The  woman  follows  the  first  man  that  throws,  and  refuses  no  one. 
But  when  she  has  had  intercourse  and  has  absolved  herself  from  her 
obligation  to  the  goddess,  she  returns  home;  and  after  that  time, 
however  great  a  sum  you  may  give  her  you  will  not  gain  possession 
of  her.  Those  that  are  endowed  with  beauty  and  symmetry  of  shape 
are  soon  set  free;  but  the  deformed  are  detained  a  long  time,  from 
inability  to  satisfy  the  law,  for  some  wait  for  a  space  of  three  or 
four  years.10* 

What  was  the  origin  of  this  strange  rite?  Was  it  a  relic  of  ancient 
sexual  communism,  a  concession,  by  the  future  bridegroom,  of  the  jus 
prim<e  noctis,  or  right  of  the  first  night,  to  the  community  as  represented 
by  any  casual  and  anonymous  citizen?108  Was  it  due  to  the  bridegroom's 
fear  of  harm  from  the  violation  of  the  tabu  against  shedding  blood?104  Was 
it  a  physical  preparation  for  marriage,  such  as  is  still  practised  among  some 
Australian  tribes?105  Or  was  it  simply  a  sacrifice  to  the  goddess— an  offer- 
ing of  first  fruits?10*  We  do  not  know. 

Such  women,  of  course,  were  not  prostitutes.  But  various  classes  of 
prostitutes  lived  within  the  temple  precincts,  plied  their  trade  there,  and 
amassed,  some  of  them,  great  fortunes.  Such  temple  prostitutes  were 
common  in  western  Asia:  we  find  them  in  Israel,107  Phrygia,  Phoenicia, 
Syria,  etc.;  in  Lydia  and  Cyprus  the  girls  earned  their  marriage  dowries 

*  "Assyrians"  meant  for  the  Greeks  both  Assyrians  and  Babylonians.  "Mylitta"  was  one 
of  the  forms  of  Ishtar 


in  this  way.10"  "Sacred  prostitution"  continued  in  Babylonia  until  abol- 
ished by  Constantine  (ca.  325  A.D.)™  Alongside  it,  in  the  wine-shops 
kept  by  women,  secular  prostitution  flourished.110 

In  general  the  Babylonians  were  allowed  considerable  premarital  ex- 
perience. It  was  considered  permissible  for  men  and  women  to  form  un- 
licensed unions,  "trial  marriages,"  terminable  at  the  will  of  either  party; 
but  the  woman  in  such  cases  was  obliged  to  wear  an  olive— in  stone  or 
terra  cotta—zs  a  sign  that  she  was  a  concubine.m  Some  tablets  indicate 
that  the  Babylonians  wrote  poems,  and  sang  songs,  of  love;  but  all  that 
remains  of  these  is  an  occasional  first  line,  like  "My  love  is  a  light,"  or 
"My  heart  is  full  of  merriment  and  song."1"  One  letter,  dating  from  2100 
B.C.,  is  in  the  tone  of  Napoleon's  early  messages  to  Josephine:  "To 
Bibiya:  .  .  .  May  Shamash  and  Marduk  give  thee  health  forever.  ...  I 
have  sent  (to  ask)  after  thy  health;  let  me  know  how  thou  art.  I  have 
arrived  in  Babylon,  and  see  thee  not;  I  am  very  sad."118 

Legal  marriage  was  arranged  by  the  parents,  and  was  sanctioned  by 
an  exchange  of  gifts  obviously  descended  from  marriage  by  purchase. 
The  suitor  presented  to  the  father  of  the  bride  a  substantial  present,  but 
the  father  was  expected  to  give  her  a  dowry  greater  in  value  than  the 
gift,114  so  that  it  was  difficult  to  say  who  was  purchasd,  the  woman  or  the 
man.  Sometimes,  however,  the  arrangement  was  unabashed  purchase; 
Shamashnazir,  for  example,  received  ten  shekels  ($50)  as  the  price  of  his 
daughter.11*  If  we  are  to  believe  the  Father  of  History, 

those  who  had  marriageable  daughters  used  to  bring  them  once  a 
year  to  a  place  where  a  great  number  of  men  gathered  round  them. 
A  public  crier  made  them  stand  up  and  sold  them  all,  one  after  an- 
other. He  began  with  the  most  beautiful,  and  having  got  a  large  sum 
for  her  he  put  up  the  second  fairest.  But  he  only  sold  them  on  con- 
dition that  the  buyers  married  them.  .  .  .  This  very  wise  custom  no 
longer  exists."* 

Despite  these  strange  practices,  Babylonian  marriage  seems  to  have 
been  as  monogamous  and  faithful  as  marriage  in  Christendom  is  today. 
Premarital  freedom  was  followed  by  the  rigid  enforcement  of  marital 
fidelity.  The  adulterous  wife  and  her  paramour,  according  to  the  Code, 
were  drowned,  unless  the  husband,  in  his  mercy,  preferred  to  let  his  wife 
off  by  turning  her  almost  naked  into  the  streets.117  Hammurabi  out- 
Caesared  Csesar:  "If  the  finger  have  been  pointed  at  the  wife  of  a  man  be- 

CHAP.  tt)  BABYLONIA  247 

cause  of  another  man,  and  she  have  not  been  taken  in  lying  with  another 
man,  for  her  husband's  sake  she  shall  throw  herself  into  the  river"110— per- 
haps the  law  was  intended  as  a  discouragement  to  gossip.  The  man  could 
divorce  his  wife  simply  by  restoring  her  dowry  to  her  and  saying,  "Thou 
art  not  my  wife";  but  if  she  said  to  him,  "Thou  art  not  my  husband,"  she 
was  to  be  drowned."*  Childlessness,  adultery,  incompatibility,  or  careless 
management  of  the  household  might  satisfy  the  law  as  ground  for  grant- 
ing the  man  a  divorce;"0  indeed  "if  she  have  not  been  a  careful  mistress, 
have  gadded  about,  have  neglected  her  house,  and  have  belittled  her  chil- 
dren, they  shall  throw  that  woman  into  the  water."m  As  against  this  in- 
credible severity  of  the  Code,  we  find  that  in  practice  the  woman,  though 
she  might  not  divorce  her  husband,  was  free  to  leave  him,  if  she  could 
show  cruelty  on  his  part  and  fidelity  on  her  own;  in  such  cases  she  could 
return  to  her  parents,  and  take  her  marriage  portion  with  her,  along  with 
what  other  property  she  might  have  acquired.1"  (The  women  of  Eng- 
land did  not  enjoy  these  rights  till  the  end  of  the  nineteenth  century.) 
If  a  woman's  husband  was  kept  from  her,  through  business  or  war,  for 
any  length  of  time,  and  had  left  no  means  for  her  maintenance,  she  might 
cohabit  with  another  man  without  legal  prejudice  to  her  reunion  with 
her  husband  on  the  latter's  return.1** 

In  general  the  position  of  woman  in  Babylonia  was  lower  than  in 
Egypt  or  Rome,  and  yet  not  worse  than  in  classic  Greece  or  medieval 
Europe.  To  carry  out  her  many  functions— begetting  and  rearing  chil- 
dren, fetching  water  from  the  river  or  the  public  well,  grinding  corn, 
cooking,  spinning,  weaving,  cleaning— she  had  to  be  free  to  go  about  in 
public  very  much  like  the  man.114  She  could  own  property,  enjoy  its 
income,  sell  and  buy,  inherit  and  bequeath.1*6  Some  women  kept  shops, 
and  carried  on  commerce;  some  even  became  scribes,  indicating  that  girls 
as  well  as  boys  might  receive  an  education.1*8  But  the  Semitic  practice  of 
giving  almost  limitless  power  to  the  oldest  male  of  the  family  won  out 
against  any  matriarchal  tendencies  that  may  have  existed  in  prehistoric 
Mesopotamia.  Among  the  upper  classes— by  a  custom  that  led  to  the 
purdah  of  Islam  and  India— the  women  were  confined  to  certain  quarters 
of  the  house;  and  when  they  went  out  they  were  chaperoned  by  eunuchs 
and  pages.1*7  Among  the  lower  classes  they  were  maternity  machines,  and 
if  they  had  no  dowry  they  were  little  more  than  slaves.1*  The  worship 
of  Ishtar  suggests  a  certain  reverence  for  woman  and  motherhood,  like 
the  worship  of  Mary  in  the  Middle  Ages;  but  we  get  no  glimpse  of  chiv- 


airy  in  Herodotus'  report  that  the  Babylonians,  when  besieged,  "had 
strangled  their  wives,  to  prevent  the  consumption  of  their  provisions."1* 

With  some  excuse,  then,  the  Egyptians  looked  down  upon  the  Baby- 
lonians as  not  quite  civilized.  We  miss  here  the  refinement  of  character 
and  feeling  indicated  by  Egyptian  literature  and  art.  When  refinement 
came  to  Babylon  it  was  in  the  guise  of  an  effeminate  degeneracy:  young 
men  dyed  and  curled  their  hair,  perfumed  their  flesh,  rouged  their  cheeks, 
and  adorned  themselves  with  necklaces,  bangles,  ear-rings  and  pendants. 
After  the  Persian  Conquest  the  death  of  self-respect  brought  an  end  of 
self-restraint;  the  manners  of  the  courtesan  crept  into  every  class;  women 
of  good  family  came  to  consider  it  mere  courtesy  to  reveal  their  charms 
indiscriminately  for  the  greatest  happiness  of  the  greatest  number;1*  and 
"every  man  of  the  people  in  his  poverty,"  if  we  may  credit  Herodotus, 
"prostituted  his  daughters  for  money."181  "There  is  nothing  more  extraor- 
dinary than  the  manners  of  this  city,"  wrote  Quintus  Curtius  (42  A.D.), 
"and  nowhere  are  things  better  arranged  with  a  view  to  voluptuous  pleas- 
ures."188 Morals  grew  lax  when  the  temples  grew  rich;  and  the  citizens  of 
Babylon,  wedded  to  delight,  bore  with  equanimity  the  subjection  of  their 
city  by  the  Kassites,  the  Assyrians,  the  Persians,  and  the  Greeks. 


Cuneiform—Its   decipherment— Language— Literature— The    epic 

of  Gilgamesh 

Did  this  life  of  venery,  piety  and  trade  receive  any  ennobling  enshrine- 
ment  in  literary  or  artistic  form?  It  is  possible;  we  cannot  judge  a  civiliza- 
tion from  such  fragments  as  the  ocean  of  time  has  thrown  up  from  the 
wreckage  of  Babylon.  These  fragments  are  chiefly  liturgical,  magical 
and  commercial.  Whether  through  accident  or  through  cultural  poverty, 
Babylonia,  like  Assyria  and  Persia,  has  left  us  a  very  middling  heritage  of 
literature  as  compared  with  Egypt  and  Palestine;  its  gifts  were  in  com- 
merce and  law. 

Nevertheless,  scribes  were  as  numerous  in  cosmopolitan  Babylon  as  in 
Memphis  or  Thebes.  The  art  of  writing  was  still  young  enough  to  give 
its  master  a  high  rank  in  society;  it  was  the  open  sesame  to  govern- 
mental and  sacerdotal  office;  its  possessor  never  failed  to  mention  the 
distinction  in  narrating  his  deeds,  and  usually  he  engraved  a  notice  of  it 
on  his  cylinder  seal,1*  precisely  as  Christian  scholars  and  gentlemen  once 


listed  their  academic  degrees  on  their  cards.  The  Babylonians  wrote  in 
cuneiform  upon  tablets  of  damp  clay,  with  a  stylus  or  pencil  cut  at  the 
end  into  a  triangular  prism  or  wedge;  when  the  tablets  were  filled  they 
dried  and  baked  them  into  strange  but  durable  manuscripts  of  brick.  If 
the  thing  written  was  a  letter  it  was  dusted  with  powder  and  then 
wrapped  in  a  clay  envelope  stamped  with  the  sender's  cylinder  seal. 
Tablets  in  jars  classified  and  arranged  on  shelves  filled  numerous  libraries 
in  the  temples  and  palaces  of  Babylonia.  These  Babylonian  libraries  are 
lost;  but  one  of  the  greatest  of  them,  that  of  Borsippa,  was  copied  and 
preserved  in  the  library  of  Ashurbanipal,  whose  30,000  tablets  are  the 
main  source  of  our  knowledge  of  Babylonian  life. 

The  decipherment  of  Babylonian  baffled  students  for  centuries;  their  final 
success  is  an  honorable  chapter  in  the  history  of  scholarship.  In  1802  Georg 
Grotefend,  professor  of  Greek  at  the  University  of  Gottingen,  told  the 
Gottingen  Academy  how  for  years  he  had  puzzled  over  certain  cuneiform 
inscriptions  from  ancient  Persia;  how  at  last  he  had  identified  eight  of  the 
forty-two  characters  used,  and  had  made  out  the  names  of  three  kings  in 
the  inscriptions.  There,  for  the  most  part,  the  matter  rested  until  1835,  when 
Henry  Rawlinson,  a  British  diplomatic  officer  stationed  in  Persia,  quite  un- 
aware of  Grotcfend's  work,  likewise  worked  out  the  names  of  Hystaspes, 
Darius  and  Xerxes  in  an  inscription  couched  in  Old  Persian,  a  cuneiform  de- 
rivative of  Babylonian  script;  and  through  these  names  he  finally  deciphered 
the  entire  document.  This,  however,  was  not  Babylonian;  Rawlinson  had  still 
to  find,  like  Champollion,  a  Rosetta  Stone— in  this  case  some  inscription  bear- 
ing the  same  text  in  old  Persian  and  Babylonian.  He  found  it  three  hundred 
feet  high  on  an  almost  inaccessible  rock  at  Behistun,  in  the  mountains  of 
Media,  where  Darius  I  had  caused  his  carvers  to  engrave  a  record  of  his  wars 
and  victories  in  three  languages— old  Persian,  Assyrian,  and  Babylonian.  Day 
after  day  Rawlinson  risked  himself  on  these  rocks,  often  suspending  himself 
by  a  rope,  copying  every  character  carefully,  even  making  plastic  impressions 
of  all  the  engraved  surfaces.  After  twelve  years  of  work  he  succeeded  in 
translating  both  the  Babylonian  and  the  Assyrian  texts  (1847).  To  test  these 
and  similar  findings,  the  Royal  Asiatic  Society  sent  an  unpublished  cuneiform 
document  to  four  Assyriologists,  and  asked  them— working  without  contact  or 
communication  with  one  another— to  make  independent  translations.  The  four 
reports  were  found  to  be  in  almost  complete  agreement.  Through  these  un- 
heralded campaigns  of  scholarship  the  perspective  of  history  was  enriched 
with  a  new  civilization.13* 

The  Babylonian  language  was  a  Semitic  development  of  the  old  tongues 
of  Sumeria  and  Akkad.  It  was  written  in  characters  originally  Sumerian,  but 


the  vocabulary  diverged  in  time  (like  French  from  Latin)  into  a  language  so 
different  from  Sumerian  that  the  Babylonians  had  to  compose  dictionaries  and 
grammars  to  transmit  the  old  "classic"  and  sacerdotal  tongue  of  Sumeria  to 
young  scholars  and  priests.  Almost  a  fourth  of  the  tablets  found  in  the  royal 
library  at  Nineveh  is  devoted  to  dictionaries  and  grammars  of  the  Sumerian, 
Babylonian  and  Assyrian  languages.  According  to  tradition,  such  dictionaries 
had  been  made  as  far  back  as  Sargon  of  Akkad— so  old  is  scholarship.  In 
Babylonian,  as  in  Sumerian,  the  characters  represented  not  letters  but  sylla- 
bles; Babylon  never  achieved  an  alphabet  of  its  own,  but  remained  content 
with  a  "syllabary"  of  some  three  hundred  signs.  The  memorizing  of  these 
syllabic  symbols  formed,  with  mathematics  and  religious  instruction,  the  cur- 
riculum of  the  temple  schools  in  which  the  priests  imparted  to  the  young  as 
much  as  it  was  expedient  for  them  to  know.  One  excavation  unearthed  an 
ancient  classroom  in  which  the  clay  tablets  of  boys  and  girls  who  had 
copied  virtuous  maxims  upon  them  some  two  thousand  years  before  Christ 
still  lay  on  the  floor,  as  if  some  almost  welcome  disaster  had  suddenly  inter- 
rupted the  lesson.1* 

The  Babylonians,  like  the  Phoenicians,  looked  upon  letters  as  a  device  for 
facilitating  business;  they  did  not  spend  much  of  their  clay  upon  literature. 
We  find  animal  fables  in  verse— one  generation  of  an  endless  dynasty;  hymns 
in  strict  meter,  sharply  divided  lines  and  elaborate  stanzas;136  very  little  sur- 
viving secular  verse;  religious  rituals  presaging,  but  never  becoming,  drama; 
and  tons  of  historiography.  Official  chroniclers  recorded  the  piety  and  con- 
quests of  the  kings,  the  vicissitudes  of  each  temple,  and  the  important  events 
in  the  career  of  each  city.  Berosus,  the  most  famous  of  Babylonian  historians 
(ca.  280  B.C.)  narrated  with  confidence  full  details  concerning  the  creation 
of  the  world  and  the  early  history  of  man:  the  first  king  of  Babylonia  had 
been  chosen  by  a  god,  and  had  reigned  36,000  years;  from  the  beginning  of 
the  world  to  the  great  Flood,  said  Berosus,  with  praiseworthy  exactitude 
and  comparative  moderation,  there  had  elapsed  691,200  years."7 

Twelve  broken  tablets  found  in  Ashurbanipal's  library,  and  now  in  the 
British  Museum,  form  the  most  fascinating  relic  of  Mesopotamian  litera- 
ture—the Epic  of  Gilgamesh.  Like  the  Iliad  it  is  an  accretion  of  loosely 
connected  stories,  some  of  which  go  back  to  Sumeria  3000  B.C.;  part  of  it 
is  the  Babylonian  account  of  the  Flood.  Gilgamesh  was  a  legendary  ruler 
of  Uruk  or  Erech,  a  descendant  of  the  Shamash-napishtim  who  had  sur- 
vived the  Deluge,  and  had  never  died.  Gilgamesh  enters  upon  the  scene 
as  a  sort  of  Adonis-Samson— tall,  massive,  heroically  powerful  and  troub- 
lesomely  handsome. 


Two  thirds  of  him  is  god, 

One  third  of  him  is  man, 

There's  none  can  match  the  form  of  his  body.  .  .  . 

All  things  he  saw,  even  to  the  ends  of  the  earth, 

He  underwent  all,  learned  to  know  all; 

He  peered  through  all  secrets, 

Through  wisdom's  mantle  that  veileth  all. 

What  was  hidden  he  saw, 

What  was  covered  he  undid; 

Of  times  before  the  stormflood  he  brought  report. 

He  went  on  a  long  far  way, 

Giving  himself  toil  and  distress; 

Wrote  then  on  a  stone  tablet  the  whole  of  his  labor.1* 

Fathers  complain  to  Ishtar  that  he  leads  their  sons  out  to  exhausting 
toil  "building  the  walls  through  the  day,  through  the  night";  and  hus- 
bands complain  that  "he  leaves  not  a  wife  to  her  master,  not  a  single  virgin 
to  her  mother."  Ishtar  begs  Gilgamesh's  godmother,  Aruru,  to  create 
another  son  equal  to  Gilgamesh  and  able  to  keep  him  busy  in  conflict,  so 
that  the  husbands  of  Uruk  may  have  peace.  Aruru  kneads  a  bit  of  clay, 
spits  upon  it,  and  moulds  from  it  the  satyr  Engidu,  a  man  with  the 
strength  of  a  boar,  the  mane  of  a  lion,  and  the  speed  of  a  bird.  Engidu 
does  not  care  for  the  society  of  men,  but  turns  and  lives  with  the  animals; 
"he  browses  with  the  gazelles,  he  sports  with  the  creatures  of  the  water, 
he  quenches  his  thirst  with  the  beasts  of  the  field."  A  hunter  tries  to 
capture  him  with  nets  and  traps,  but  fails;  and  going  to  Gilgamesh,  the 
hunter  begs  for  the  loan  of  a  priestess  who  may  snare  Engidu  with  love. 
"Go,  my  hunter,"  says  Gilgamesh,  "take  a  priestess;  when  the  beasts 
come  to  the  watering-place  let  her  display  her  beauty;  he  will  see  her,  and 
his  beasts  that  troop  around  him  will  be  scattered." 

The  hunter  and  the  priestess  go  forth,  and  find  Engidu. 

"There  he  is,  woman! 

Loosen  thy  buckle, 

Unveil  thy  delight, 

That  he  may  take  his  fill  of  thee! 

Hang  not  back,  take  up  his  lust! 

When  he  sees  thee,  he  will  draw  near. 

Open  thy  robe  that  he  rest  upon  thee! 


Arouse  in  him  rapture,  the  work  of  woman. 

Then  will  he  become  a  stranger  to  his  wild  beasts, 

Who  on  his  own  steppes  grew  up  with  him. 

His  bosom  will  press  against  thee." 

Then  the  priestess  loosened  her  buckle, 

Unveiled  her  delight, 

For  him  to  take  his  fill  of  her. 

She  hung  not  back,  she  took  up  his  lust, 

She  opened  her  robe  that  he  rest  upon  her. 

She  aroused  in  him  rapture,  the  work  of  woman. 

His  bosom  pressed  against  her. 

Engidu  forgot  where  he  was  born.1" 

For  six  days  but  seven  nights  Engidu  remains  with  the  sacred  woman. 
When  he  tires  of  pleasure  he  awakes  to  find  his  friends  the  animals 
gone,  whereupon  he  swoons  with  sorrow.  But  the  priestess  chides  him: 
"Thou  who  art  superb  as  a  god,  why  dost  thou  live  among  the  beasts  of 
the  field?  Come,  I  will  conduct  thee  to  Uruk,  where  is  Gilgamesh,  whose 
might  is  supreme."  Ensnared  by  the  vanity  of  praise  and  the  conceit  of 
his  strength,  Engidu  follows  the  priestess  to  Uruk,  saying,  "Lead  me  to 
the  place  where  is  Gilgamesh.  I  will  fight  with  him  and  manifest  to  him 
my  power";  whereat  the  gods  and  husbands  are  well  pleased.  But  Gilga- 
mesh overcomes  him,  first  with  strength,  then  with  kindness;  they  become 
devoted  friends;  they  march  forth  together  to  protect  Uruk  from  Elam; 
they  return  glorious  with  exploits  and  victory.  Gilgamesh  "put  aside 
his  war-harness,  he  put  on  his  white  garments,  he  adorned  himself  with 
the  royal  insignia,  and  bound  on  the  diadem."  Thereupon  Ishtar  the  in- 
satiate falls  in  love  with  him,  raises  her  great  eyes  to  him,  and  says: 

"Come,  Gilgamesh,  be  my  husband,  thou!  Thy  love,  give  it  to  me 
as  a  gift;  thou  shalt  be  my  spouse,  and  I  shall  be  thy  wife.  I  shall 
place  thee  in  a  chariot  of  lapis  and  gold,  with  golden  wheels  and 
mountings  of  onyx;  thou  shalt  be  drawn  in  it  by  great  lions,  and 
thou  shalt  enter  our  house  with  the  odorous  incense  of  cedar-wood. 
...  All  the  country  by  the  sea  shall  embrace  thy  feet,  kings  shall 
bow  down  before  thee,  the  gifts  of  the  mountains  and  the  plains 
they  will  bring  before  thee  as  tribute." 

Gilgamesh  rejects  her,  and  reminds  her  of  the  hard  fate  she  has  inflicted 
upon  her  varied  lovers,  including  Tammuz,  a  hawk,  a  stallion,  a  gardener 


and  a  lion.  "Thou  lovest  me  now/'  he  tells  her;  "afterwards  thou  wilt 
strike  me  as  thou  didst  these."  The  angry  Ishtar  asks  of  the  great  god 
Aim  that  he  create  a  wild  urus  to  kill  GUgamesh.  Ami  refuses,  and  re- 
bukes her:  "Canst  thou  not  remain  quiet  now  that  Gilgamesh  has  enu- 
merated to  thee  thy  unfaithfulness  and  ignominies?"  She  threatens  that 
unless  he  grants  her  request  she  will  suspend  throughout  the  universe  all 
the  impulses  of  desire  and  love,  and  so  destroy  every  living  thing.  Anu 
yields,  and  creates  the  ferocious  urus;  but  Gilgamesh,  helped  by  Engidu, 
overcomes  the  beast;  and  when  Ishtar  curses  the  hero,  Engidu  throws  a 
limb  of  the  urus  into  her  face.  Gilgamesh  rejoices  and  is  proud,  but 
Ishtar  strikes  him  down  in  the  midst  of  his  glory  by  afflicting  Engidu  with 
a  mortal  illness. 

Mourning  over  the  corpse  of  his  friend,  whom  he  has  loved  more  than 
any  woman,  Gilgamesh  wonders  over  the  mystery  of  death.  Is  there  no 
escape  from  that  dull  fatality?  One  man  eluded  it— Shamash-napish- 
tim;  he  would  know  the  secret  of  deathlessness.  Gilgamesh  resolves  to 
seek  Shamash-napishtim,  even  if  he  must  cross  the  world  to  find  him.  The 
way  leads  through  a  mountain  guarded  by  a  pair  of  giants  whose  heads 
touch  the  sky  and  whose  breasts  reach  down  to  Hades.  But  they  let 
him  pass,  and  he  picks  his  way  for  twelve  miles  through  a  dark  tunnel. 
He  emerges  upon  the  shore  of  a  great  ocean,  and  sees,  far  over  the  waters, 
the  throne  of  Sabitu,  virgin-goddess  of  the  seas.  He  calls  out  to  her  to 
help  him  cross  the  water;  "if  it  cannot  be  done,  I  will  lay  me  down  on  the 
land  and  die."  Sabitu  takes  pity  upon  him,  and  allows  him  to  cross 
through  forty  days  of  tempest  to  the  Happy  Island  where  lives  Shamash- 
napishtim,  possessor  of  immortal  life.  Gilgamesh  begs  of  him  the  secret 
of  deathlessness.  Shamash-napishtim  answers  by  telling  at  length  the  story 
of  the  Flood,  and  how  the  gods,  relenting  of  their  mad  destructiveness, 
had  made  him  and  his  wife  immortal  because  they  had  preserved  the 
human  species.  He  offers  Gilgamesh  a  plant  whose  fruit  will  confer  re- 
newed youth  upon  him  who  eats  it;  and  Gilgamesh,  happy,  starts  back 
on  his  long  journey  home.  But  on  the  way  he  stops  to  bathe,  and  while 
he  bathes  a  serpent  crawls  by  and  steals  the  plant.* 

Desolate,  Gilgamesh  reaches  Uruk.  He  prays  in  temple  after  temple 
that  Engidu  may  be  allowed  to  return  to  life,  if  only  to  speak  to  him  for 
a  moment.  Engidu  appears,  and  Gilgamesh  inquires  of  him  the  state  of 

*  The  snake  was  worshiped  by  many  early  peoples  as  a  symbol  of  immortality,  because 
of  its  apparent  power  to  escape  death  by  moulting  its  skin. 


the  dead.  Engidu  answers,  "I  cannot  tell  it  thee;  if  I  were  to  open  the 
earth  before  thee,  if  I  were  to  tell  thee  that  which  I  have  seen,  terror 
would  overthrow  thee,  thou  wouldst  faint  away."  Gilgamesh,  symbol  of 
that  brave  stupidity,  philosophy,  persists  in  his  quest  for  truth:  "Terror 
will  overthrow  me,  I  shall  faint  away,  but  tell  it  to  me."  Engidu  de- 
scribes the  miseries  of  Hades,  and  on  this  gloomy  note  the  fragmentary 
epic  ends."0 


The  lesser  arts— Music—Painting— Sculpture— Bas-relief— 

The  story  of  Gilgamesh  is  almost  the  only  example  by  which  we  may 
judge  the  literary  art  of  Babylon.  That  a  keen  esthetic  sense,  if  not  a 
profound  creative  spirit,  survived  to  some  degree  the  Babylonian  absorp- 
tion in  commercial  life,  epicurean  recreation  and  compensatory  piety, 
may  be  seen  in  the  chance  relics  of  the  minor  arts.  Patiently  glazed  tiles, 
glittering  stones,  finely  wrought  bronze,  iron,  silver  and  gold,  delicate 
embroideries,  soft  rugs  and  richly  dyed  robes,  luxurious  tapestries,  pedes- 
taled tables,  beds  and  chairs141— these  lent  grace,  if  not  dignity  or  final 
worth,  to  Babylonian  civilization.  Jewelry  abounded  in  quantity,  but 
missed  the  subtle  artistry  of  Egypt;  it  went  in  for  a  display  of  yellow 
metal,  and  thought  it  artistic  to  make  entire  statues  of  gold.1"  There  were 
many  musical  instruments— flutes,  psalteries,  harps,  bagpipes,  lyres,  drums, 
horns,  reed-pipes,  trumpets,  cymbals  and  tambourines.  Orchestras  played 
and  singers  sang,  individually  and  chorally,  in  temples  and  palaces,  and 
at  the  feasts  of  the  well-to-do.1" 

Painting  was  purely  subsidiary;  it  decorated  walls  and  statuary,  but  made 
no  attempt  to  become  an  independent  art.144  We  do  not  find  among  Baby- 
lonian ruins  the  distemper  paintings  that  glorified  the  Egyptian  tombs,  or  such 
frescoes  as  adorned  the  palaces  of  Crete.  Babylonian  sculpture  remained 
similarly  undeveloped,  and  was  apparently  stiffened  into  an  early  death  by 
conventions  derived  from  Sumeria  and  enforced  by  the  priests:  all  the  faces 
portrayed  are  one  face,  all  the  kings  have  the  same  thick  and  muscular  frame, 
all  the  captives  are  cast  in  one  mould.  Very  little  Babylonian  statuary  sur- 
vives, and  that  without  excuse.  The  bas-reliefs  are  better,  but  they  too  are 
stereotyped  and  crude;  a  great  gulf  separates  them  from  the  mobile  vigor  of 
the  reliefs  that  the  Egyptians  had  carved  a  thousand  years  before;  they 


reach  sublimity  only  when  they  depict  animals  possessed  of  the  silent  dignity 
of  nature,  or  enraged  by  the  cruelty  of  men.ltt 

Babylonian  architecture  is  safe  from  judgment  now,  for  hardly  any  of  its 
remains  rise  to  more  than  a  few  feet  above  the  sands;  and  there  are  no  carved 
or  painted  representations  among  the  relics  to  show  us  clearly  the  form  and 
structure  of  palaces  and  temples.  Houses  were  built  of  dried  mud,  or,  among 
the  rich,  of  brick;  they  seldom  knew  windows,  and  their  doors  opened  not 
upon  the  narrow  street  but  upon  an  interior  court  shaded  from  the  sun. 
Tradition  describes  the  better  dwellings  as  rising  to  three  or  four  stories  in 
height.148  The  temple  was  raised  upon  foundations  level  with  the  roofs  of  the 
houses  whose  life  it  was  to  dominate;  usually  it  was  an  enormous  square  of 
tiled  masonry,  built,  like  the  houses,  around  a  court;  in  this  court  most  of 
the  religious  ceremonies  were  performed.  Near  the  temple,  in  most  cases, 
rose  a  ziggurat  (literally  ua  high  place")— a  tower  of  superimposed  and  dimin- 
ishing cubical  stories  surrounded  by  external  stairs.  Its  uses  were  partly  reli- 
gious, as  a  lofty  shrine  for  the  god,  partly  astronomic,  as  an  observatory 
from  which  the  priests  could  watch  the  all-revealing  stars.  The  great  ziggurat 
at  Borsippa  was  called  "The  Stages  of  the  Seven  Spheres";  each  story  was 
dedicated  to  one  of  the  seven  planets  known  to  Babylonia,  and  bore  a  sym- 
bolic color.  The  lowest  was  black,  as  the  color  of  Saturn;  the  next  above  it 
was  white,  as  the  color  of  Venus;  the  next  was  purple,  for  Jupiter;  the  fourth 
blue,  for  Mercury;  the  fifth  scarlet,  for  Mars;  the  sixth  silver,  for  the  moon; 
the  seventh  gold,  for  the  sun.  These  spheres  and  stars,  beginning  at  the  top, 
designated  the  days  of  the  week.147 

There  was  not  much  art  in  this  architecture,  so  far  as  we  can  vision 
it  now;  it  was  a  mass  of  straight  lines  seeking  the  glory  of  size.  Here  and 
there  among  the  ruins  are  vaults  and  arches— forms  derived  from  Sumeria, 
negligently  used,  and  unconscious  of  their  destiny.  Decoration,  interior  and 
exterior,  was  almost  confined  to  enameling  some  of  the  brick  surfaces  with 
bright  glazes  of  yellow,  blue,  white  and  red,  with  occasional  tiled  figures  of 
animals  or  plants.  The  use  of  vitrified  glaze,  not  merely  to  beautify,  but  to 
protect  the  masonry  from  sun  and  rain,  was  at  least  as  old  as  Naram-sin,  and 
was  to  continue  in  Mesopotamia  down  to  Moslem  days.  In  this  way  ceram- 
ics, though  seldom  producing  rememberable  pottery,  became  the  most 
characteristic  art  of  the  ancient  Near  East.  Despite  such  aid,  Babylonian 
architecture  remained  a  heavy  and  prosaic  thing,  condemned  to  mediocrity 
by  the  material  it  used.  The  temples  rose  rapidly  out  of  the  earth  which 
slave  labor  turned  so  readily  into  brick  and  cementing  pitch;  they  did  not 
require  centuries  for  their  erection,  like  the  monumental  structures  of  Egypt 
or  medieval  Europe.  But  they  decayed  almost  as  quickly  as  they  rose;  fifty 
years  of  neglect  reduced  them  to  the  dust  from  which  they  had  been  made.148 


The  very  cheapness  of  brick  corrupted  Babylonian  design;  with  such  mate- 
rials it  was  easy  to  achieve  size,  difficult  to  compass  beauty.  Brick  does  not 
lend  itself  to  sublimity,  and  sublimity  is  the  soul  of  architecture. 


Mathematics— Astronomy— The  calendar— Geography— Medicine 

Being  merchants,  the  Babylonians  were  more  likely  to  achieve  successes 
in  science  than  in  art.  Commerce  created  mathematics,  and  united  with 
religion  to  beget  astronomy.  In  their  varied  functions  as  judges,  adminis- 
trators, agricultural  and  industrial  magnates,  and  soothsayers  skilled  in 
examining  entrails  and  stars,  the  priests  of  Mesopotamia  unconsciously 
laid  the  foundations  of  those  sciences  which,  in  the  profane  hands  of  the 
Greeks,  were  for  a  time  to  depose  religion  from  its  leadership  of  the 

Babylonian  mathematics  rested  on  a  division  of  the  circle  into  360 
degrees,  and  of  the  year  into  360  days;  on  this  basis  it  developed  a 
sexagesimal  system  of  calculation  by  sixties,  which  became  the  parent  of 
later  duodecimal  systems  of  reckoning  by  twelves.  The  numeration 
used  only  three  figures:  a  sign  for  i,  repeated  up  to  9;  a  sign  for  10,  re- 
peated up  to  50;  and  a  sign  for  100.  Computation  was  made  easier  by 
tables  which  showed  not  only  multiplication  and  division,  but  the  halves, 
quarters,  thirds,  squares  and  cubes  of  the  basic  numbers.  Geometry  ad- 
vanced to  the  measurement  of  complex  and  irregular  areas.  The  Baby- 
lonian figure  for  *  (the  ratio  of  the  circumference  to  the  diameter  of  a 
circle)  was  3—3  very  crude  approximation  for  a  nation  of  astronomers. 

Astronomy  was  the  special  science  of  the  Babylonians,  for  which  they 
were  famous  throughout  the  ancient  world.  Here  again  magic  was  the 
mother  of  science:  the  Babylonians  studied  the  stars  not  so  much  to  chart 
the  courses  of  caravans  and  ships,  as  to  divine  the  future  fates  of  men; 
they  were  astrologers  first  and  astronomers  afterward.  Every  planet  was 
a  god,  interested  and  vital  in  the  affairs  of  men:  Jupiter  was  Marduk, 
Mercury  was  Nabu,  Mars  was  Nergal,  the  sun  was  Shamash,  the  moon 
was  Sin,  Saturn  was  Ninib,  Venus  was  Ishtar.  Every  movement  of  every 
star  determined,  or  forecast,  some  terrestrial  event:  if,  for  example,  the 
moon  was  low,  a  distant  nation  would  submit  to  the  king;  if  the  moon  was 
in  crescent  the  king  would  overcome  the  enemy.  Such  efforts  to  wring 
the  future  out  of  the  stars  became  a  passion  with  the  Babylonians;  priests 


skilled  in  astrology  reaped  rich  rewards  from  both  people  and  king.  Some 
of  them  were  sincere  students,  poring  zealously  over  astrologic  tomes 
which,  according  to  their  traditions,  had  been  composed  in  the  days  of 
Sargon  of  Akkad;  they  complained  of  the  quacks  who,  without  such 
study,  went  about  reading  horoscopes  for  a  fee,  or  predicting  the  weather 
a  year  ahead,  in  the  fashion  of  our  modern  almanacs.1** 

Astronomy  developed  slowly  out  of  this  astrologic  observation  and 
charting  of  the  stars.  As  far  back  as  2000  B.C.  the  Babylonians  had  made 
accurate  records  of  the  heliacal  rising  and  setting  of  the  planet  Venus; 
they  had  fixed  the  position  of  various  stars,  and  were  slowly  mapping  the 
sky."0  The  Kassite  conquest  interrupted  this  development  for  a  thou- 
sand years.  Then,  under  Nebuchadrezzar,  astronomic  progress  was  re- 
sumed; the  priest-scientists  plotted  the  orbits  of  sun  and  moon,  noted  their 
conjunctions  and  eclipses,  calculated  the  courses  of  the  planets,  and  made 
the  first  clear  distinction  between  a  planet  and  a  star;*"1  they  determined 
the  dates  of  winter  and  summer  solstices,  of  vernal  and  autumnal 
equinoxes,  and,  following  the  lead  of  the  Sumerians,  divided  the  ecliptic 
(i.e.,  the  path  of  the  earth  around  the  sun)  into  the  twelve  signs  of  the 
Zodiac.  Having  divided  the  circle  into  360  degrees,  they  divided  the 
degree  into  sixty  minutes,  and  the  minute  into  sixty  seconds.108  They 
measured  time  by  a  clepsydra  or  water-clock,  and  a  sun-dial,  and  these 
seem  to  have  been  not  merely  developed  but  invented  by  them.1™ 

They  divided  the  year  into  twelve  lunar  months,  six  having  thirty  days, 
six  twenty-nine;  and  as  this  made  but  354  days  in  all,  they  added  a  thir- 
teenth month  occasionally  to  harmonize  the  calendar  with  the  seasons. 
The  month  was  divided  into  four  weeks  according  to  the  four  phases  of 
the  moon.  An  attempt  was  made  to  establish  a  more  convenient  calendar 
by  dividing  the  month  into  six  weeks  of  five  days;  but  the  phases  of  the 
moon  proved  more  effective  than  the  conveniences  of  men.  The  day  was 
reckoned  not  from  midnight  to  midnight  but  from  one  rising  of  the 
moon  to  the  next;1*4  it  was  divided  into  twelve  hours,  and  each  of  these 
hours  was  divided  into  thirty  minutes,  so  that  the  Babylonian  minute  had 
the  feminine  quality  of  being  four  times  as  long  as  its  name  might  suggest. 
The  division  of  our  month  into  four  weeks,  of  our  clock  into  twelve 
hours  (instead  of  twenty-four),  of  our  hour  into  sixty  minutes,  and  of 

*  To  the  Babylonians  a  planet  was  distinguished  from  the  "fixed"  stars  by  its  observable 
motion  or  "wandering."  In  modern  astronomy  a  planet  is  defined  as  a  heavenly  body 
regularly  revolving  about  the  sun. 


our  minute  into  sixty  seconds,  are  unsuspected  Babylonian  vestiges  in  our 
contemporary  world.* 

The  dependence  of  Babylonian  science  upon  religion  had  a  more 
stagnant  effect  in  medicine  than  in  astronomy.  It  was  not  so  much  the  ob- 
scurantism of  the  priests  that  held  the  science  back,  as  the  superstition  of 
the  people.  Already  by  the  time  of  Hammurabi  the  art  of  healing  had 
separated  itself  in  some  measure  from  the  domain  and  domination  of  the 
clergy;  a  regular  profession  of  physician  had  been  established,  with  fees 
and  penalties  fixed  by  law.  A  patient  who  called  in  a  doctor  could  know 
in  advance  just  how  much  he  would  have  to  pay  for  such  treatment  or 
operation;  and  if  he  belonged  to  the  poorer  classes  the  fee  was  lowered 
accordingly.107  If  the  doctor  bungled  badly  he  had  to  pay  damages  to  the 
patient;  in  extreme  cases,  as  we  have  seen,  his  fingers  were  cut  off  so  that 
he  might  not  readily  experiment  again.1" 

But  this  almost  secularized  science  found  itself  helpless  before  the  de- 
mand of  the  people  for  supernatural  diagnosis  and  magical  cures.  Sorcer- 
ers and  necromancers  were  more  popular  than  physicians,  and  enforced, 
by  their  influence  with  the  populace,  irrational  methods  of  treatment. 
Disease  was  possession,  and  was  due  to  sin;  therefore  it  had  to  be  treated 
mainly  by  incantations,  magic  and  prayer;  when  drugs  were  used  they 
were  aimed  not  to  cleanse  the  patient  but  to  terrify  and  exorcise  the 
demon.  The  favorite  drug  was  a  mixture  deliberately  compounded  of  dis- 
gusting elements,  apparently  on  the  theory  that  the  sick  man  had  a 
stronger  stomach  than  the  demon  that  possessed  him;  the  usual  ingredi- 
ents were  raw  meat,  snake-flesh  and  wood-shavings  mixed  with  wine  and 
oil;  or  rotten  food,  crushed  bones,  fat  and  dirt,  mingled  with  animal  or 
human  urine  or  excrement.1**  Occasionally  this  Dreckapothek  was  re- 
placed by  an  effort  to  appease  the  demon  with  milk,  honey,  cream,  and 
sweet-smelling  herbs.100  If  all  treatment  failed,  the  patient  was  in  some 
cases  carried  into  the  market-place,  so  that  his  neighbors  might  indulge 
their  ancient  propensity  for  prescribing  infallible  cures.181 

Perhaps  the  eight  hundred  medical  tablets  that  survive  to  inform  us 

*  From  charting  the  skies  the  Babylonians  turned  to  mapping  the  earth.  The  oldest 
maps  of  which  we  have  any  knowledge  were  those  which  the  priests  prepared  of  the 
roads  and  cities  of  Nebuchadrezzar's  empire.1*5  A  clay  tablet  found  in  the  ruins  of  Gasur 
(two  hundred  miles  north  of  Babylon),  and  dated  back  to  1600  B.C.,  contains,  in  a  space 
hardly  an  inch  square,  a  map  of  the  province  of  Shat-Azalla;  it  represents  mountains  by 
rounded  lines,  water  by  tilting  lines,  rivers  by  parallel  lines;  the  names  of  various  town? 
are  inscribed,  and  the  direction  of  north  and  south  is  indicated  in  the  margin.16* 


of  Babylonian  medicine  do  it  injustice.  Reconstruction  of  the  whole 
from  a  part  is  hazardous  in  history,  and  the  writing  of  history  is  the  re- 
construction of  the  whole  from  a  part.  Quite  possibly  these  magical 
cures  were  merely  subtle  uses  of  the  power  of  suggestion;  perhaps  those 
evil  concoctions  were  intended  as  emetics;  and  the  Babylonian  may  have 
meant  nothing  more  irrational  by  his  theory  of  illness  as  due  to  invading 
demons  and  the  patient's  sins  than  we  do  by  interpreting  it  as  due  to 
invading  bacteria  invited  by  culpable  negligence,  uncleanliness,  or  greed. 
We  must  not  be  too  sure  of  the  ignorance  of  our  ancestors. 


Religion  and  Philosophy— The  Babylonian  Job— The  Babylonian 
Koheleth—An  anti-clerical 

A.  nation  is  born  stoic,  and  dies  epicurean.  At  its  cradle  (to  repeat  a 
thoughtful  adage)  religion  stands,  and  philosophy  accompanies  it  to  the 
grave.  In  the  beginning  of  all  cultures  a  strong  religious  faith  conceals  and 
softens  the  nature  of  things,  and  gives  men  courage  to  bear  pain  and  hard- 
ship patiently;  at  every  step  the  gods  are  with  them,  and  will  not  let  them 
perish,  until  they  do.  Even  then  a  firm  faith  will  explain  that  it  was  the 
sins  of  the  people  that  turned  their  gods  to  an  avenging  wrath;  evil 
does  not  destroy  faith,  but  strengthens  it.  If  victory  comes,  if  war  is  for- 
gotten in  security  and  peace,  then  wealth  grows;  the  life  of  the  body  gives 
way,  in  the  dominant  classes,  to  the  life  of  the  senses  and  the  mind;  toil 
and  suffering  are  replaced  by  pleasure  and  ease;  science  weakens  faith  even 
while  thought  and  comfort  weaken  virility  and  fortitude.  At  last  men 
begin  to  doubt  the  gods;  they  mourn  the  tragedy  of  knowledge,  and  seek 
refuge  in  every  passing  delight.  Achilles  is  at  the  beginning,  Epicurus  at 
the  end.  After  David  comes  Job,  and  after  Job,  Ecclcsiastes. 

Since  we  know  the  thought  of  Babylon  mostly  from  the  later  reigns, 
it  is  natural  that  we  should  find  it  shot  through  with  the  weary  wisdom 
of  tired  philosophers  who  took  their  pleasures  like  Englishmen.  On  one 
tablet  Balta-atrua  complains  that  though  he  has  obeyed  the  commands  of 
the  gods  more  strictly  than  any  one  else,  he  has  been  laid  low  with  a 
variety  of  misfortunes;  he  has  lost  his  parents  and  his  property,  and  even 
the  little  that  remained  to  him  has  been  stolen  on  the  highway.  His 
friends,  like  Job's,  reply  that  his  disaster  must  be  in  punishment  of  some 
secret  sin— perhaps  that  hybris,  or  insolent  pride  of  prosperity,  which 


particularly  arouses  the  jealous  anger  of  the  gods.  They  assure  him  that 
evil  is  merely  good  in  disguise,  some  part  of  the  divine  plan  seen  too 
narrowly  by  frail  minds  unconscious  of  the  whole.  Let  Balta-atrua  keep 
faith  and  courage,  and  he  will  be  rewarded  in  the  end;  better  still,  his 
enemies  will  be  punished.  Balta-atrua  calls  out  to  the  gods  for  help— 
and  the  fragment  suddenly  ends.188 

Another  poem,  found  among  the  ruins  of  Ashurbanipal's  collection  of 
Babylonian  literature,  presents  the  same  problem  more  definitely  in  the 
person  of  Tabi-utul-Enlil,  who  appears  to  have  been  a  ruler  in  Nippur. 
He  describes  his  difficulties:* 

(My  eyeballs  he  obscured,  bolting  them  as  with)  a  lock; 

(My  cars  he  bolted),  like  those  of  a  deaf  person. 

A  king,  I  have  been  changed  into  a  slave; 

As  a  madman  (my)  companions  maltreat  me. 

Send  me  help  from  the  pit  dug  (for  me)!  .  .  . 

By  day  deep  sighs,  at  night  weeping; 

The  month— cries;  the  year— distress.  .  .  . 

He  goes  on  to  tell  what  a  pious  fellow  he  has  always  been,  the  very  last 
man  in  the  world  who  should  have  met  with  so  cruel  a  fate: 

As  though  I  had  not  always  set  aside  the  portion  for  the  god, 

And  had  not  invoked  the  goddess  at  the  meal, 

Had  not  bowed  my  face  and  brought  my  tribute; 

As  though  I  were  one  in  whose  mouth  supplication  and  prayer  were 

not  constant!   .  .  . 

I  taught  my  country  to  guard  the  name  of  the  god; 
To  honor  the  name  of  the  goddess  I  accustomed  my  people.  .  .  . 
I  thought  that  such  things  were  pleasing  to  a  god. 

Stricken  with  disease  despite  all  this  formal  piety,  he  muses  on  the 
impossibility  of  understanding  the  gods,  and  on  the  uncertainty  of  human 

Who  is  there  that  can  grasp  the  will  of  the  gods  in  heaven? 

The  plan  of  a  god  full  of  mystery— who  can  understand  it?  ... 

He  who  was  alive  yesterday  is  dead  today; 

In  an  instant  he  is  cast  into  grief;  of  a  sudden  he  is  crushed. 

*  Parenthetical  passages  are  guesse* 


For  a  moment  he  sings  and  plays; 

In  a  twinkling  he  wails  like  a  mourner.  .  .  . 

Like  a  net  trouble  has  covered  me. 

My  eyes  look  but  see  not; 

My  ears  are  open  but  they  hear  not.  .  .  . 

Pollution  has  fallen  upon  my  genitals, 

And  it  has  assailed  the  glands  in  my  bowels.  .  .  . 

With  death  grows  dark  my  whole  body.  .  .  . 

All  day  the  pursuer  pursues  me; 

During  the  night  he  gives  me  no  breath  for  a  moment.  .  .  . 

My  limbs  are  dismembered,  they  march  out  of  unison. 

In  my  dung  I  pass  the  night  like  an  ox; 

Like  a  sheep  I  mix  in  my  excrements.  .  .  . 

Like  Job,  he  makes  another  act  of  faith: 

But  I  know  the  day  of  the  cessation  of  my  tears, 
A  day  of  the  grace  of  the  protecting  spirits;  then  divinity  will  be 

In  the  end  everything  turns  out  happily.  A  spirit  appears,  and  cures  all 
of  Tabi's  ailments;  a  mighty  storm  drives  all  the  demons  of  disease  out 
of  his  frame.  He  praises  Marduk,  offers  rich  sacrifice,  and  calls  upon 
every  one  never  to  despair  of  the  gods.* 

As  there  is  but  a  step  from  this  to  the  Book  of  Job,  so  we  find  in  late 
Babylonian  literature  unmistakable  premonitions  of  Ecclesiastes.  In  the 
Epic  of  Gilgamesh  the  goddess  Sabitu  advises  the  hero  to  give  up  his 
longing  for  a  life  after  death,  and  to  eat,  drink  and  be  merry  on  the 

O  Gilgamesh,  why  dost  thou  run  in  all  directions? 

The  life  that  thou  seekest  thou  wilt  not  find. 

When  the  gods  created  mankind  they  determined  death  for  mankind; 

Life  they  kept  in  their  own  hands. 

Thou,  O  Gilgamesh,  fill  thy  belly; 

Day  and  night  be  thou  merry;  .  .  . 

Day  and  night  be  joyous  and  content! 

Let  thy  garments  be  pure, 

*  It  is  probable  that  this  composition,  prototypes  of  which  are  found  in  Sumeria,  influ- 
enced the  author  of  the  Book  of  Job.™ 


Thy  head  be  washed;  wash  thyself  with  water! 
Regard  the  little  one  who  takes  hold  of  thy  hand; 
Enjoy  the  wife  in  thy  bosom.1"* 

In  another  tablet  we  hear  a  bitterer  note,  culminating  in  atheism  and 
blasphemy.  Gubarru,  a  Babylonian  Alcibiades,  interrogates  an  elder 

O  very  wise  one,  O  possessor  of  intelligence,  let  thy  heart  groan! 
The  heart  of  God  is  as  far  as  the  inner  parts  of  the  heavens. 
Wisdom  is  hard,  and  men  do  not  understand  it. 

To  which  the  old  man  answers  with  a  forboding  of  Amos  and  Isaiah: 

Give  attention,  my  friend,  and  understand  my  thought. 

Men  exalt  the  work  of  the  great  man  who  is  skilled  in  murder. 

They  disparage  the  poor  man  who  has  done  no  sin. 

They  justify  the  wicked  man,  whose  fault  is  grave. 

They  drive  away  the  just  man  who  seeks  the  will  of  God. 

They  let  the  strong  take  the  food  of  the  poor; 

They  strengthen  the  mighty; 

They  destroy  the  weak  man,  the  rich  man  drives  him  away. 

He  advises  Gubarru  to  do  the  will  of  the  gods  none  the  less.  But  Gubarru 
will  have  nothing  to  do  with  gods  or  priests  who  are  always  on  the  side 
of  the  biggest  fortunes: 

They  have  offered  lies  and  untruth  without  ceasing. 

They  say  in  noble  words  what  is  in  favor  of  the  rich  man. 

Is  his  wealth  diminished?    They  come  to  his  help. 

They  ill-treat  the  weak  man  like  a  thief, 

They  destroy  him  in  a  tremor,  they  extinguish  him  like  a  flame.16* 

We  must  not  exaggerate  the  prevalence  of  such  moods  in  Babylon; 
doubtless  the  people  listened  lovingly  to  their  priests,  and  crowded  the 
temples  to  seek  favors  of  the  gods.  The  marvel  is  that  they  were  so  long 

*  Cf.  Ecclesiastes,  ix,  7-9:  "Go  thy  way,  cat  thy  bread  with  joy,  and  drink  thy  wine 
with  a  merry  heart;  for  God  now  accepteth  thy  works.  Let  thy  garments  be  always 
white;  and  let  thy  head  lack  no  ointment.  Live  joyfully  with  the  wife  whom  thou  lovest, 
all  the  days  of  the  life  of  thy  vanity." 


loyal  to  a  religion  that  offered  them  so  little  consolation.  Nothing  could 
be  known,  said  the  priests,  except  by  divine  revelation;  and  this  revela- 
tion came  only  through  the  priests.  The  last  chapter  of  that  revelation 
told  how  the  dead  soul,  whether  good  or  bad,  descended  into  Aralu,  or 
Hades,  to  spend  there  an  eternity  in  darkness  and  suffering.  Is  it  any 
wonder  that  Babylon  gave  itself  to  revelry,  while  Nebuchadrezzar,  having 
all,  understanding  nothing,  fearing  everything,  went  mad? 


Tradition  and  the  Book  of  Daniel,  unverified  by  any  document  known 
to  us,  tell  how  Nebuchadrezzar,  after  a  long  reign  of  uninterrupted  vic- 
tory and  prosperity,  after  beautifying  his  city  with  roads  and  palaces, 
and  erecting  fifty-four  temples  to  the  gods,  fell  into  a  strange  insanity, 
thought  himself  a  beast,  walked  on  all  fours,  and  ate  grass.1*7  For  four 
years  his  name  disappears  from  the  history  and  governmental  records  of 
Babylonia;188  it  reappears  for  a  moment,  and  then,  in  562  B.C.,  he  passes 

Within  thirty  years  after  his  death  his  empire  crumbled  to  pieces. 
Nabonidus,  who  held  the  throne  for  seventeen  years,  preferred  archeology 
to  government,  and  devoted  himself  to  excavating  the  antiquities  of 
Sumeria  while  his  own  realm  was  going  to  ruin.108  The  army  fell  into 
disorder;  business  men  forgot  love  of  country  in  the  sublime  internation- 
alism of  finance;  the  people,  busy  with  trade  and  pleasure,  unlearned  the 
arts  of  war.  The  priests  usurped  more  and  more  of  the  royal  power,  and 
fattened  their  treasuries  with  wealth  that  tempted  invasion  and  conquest. 
When  Cyrus  and  his  disciplined  Persians  stood  at  the  gates,  the  anti- 
clericals  of  Babylon  connived  to  open  the  city  to  him,  and  welcomed  his 
enlightened  domination.170  For  two  centuries  Persia  ruled  Babylonia  as 
part  of  the  greatest  empire  that  history  had  yet  known.  Then  the  exub- 
erant Alexander  came,  captured  the  unresisting  capital,  conquered  all  the 
Near  East,  and  drank  himself  to  death  in  the  palace  of  Nebuchadrezzar.171 

The  civilization  of  Babylonia  was  not  as  fruitful  for  humanity  as 
Egypt's,  not  as  varied  and  profound  as  India's,  not  as  subtle  and  mature 
as  China's.  And  yet 'it  was  from  Babylonia  that  those  fascinating  legends 
came  which,  through  the  literary  artistry  of  the  Jews,  became  an  insep- 
arable portion  of  Europe's  religious  lore;  it  was  from  Babylonia,  rather 
than  from  Egypt,  that  the  roving  Greeks  brought  to  their  city-stateSj 


and  thence  to  Rome  and  ourselves,  the  foundations  of  mathematics, 
astronomy,  medicine,  grammar,  lexicography,  archeology,  history,  and 
philosophy.  The  Greek  names  for  the  metals  and  the  constellations,  for 
weights  and  measures,  for  musical  instruments  and  many  drugs,  are  trans- 
lations, sometimes  mere  transliterations,  of  Babylonian  names.172  While 
Greek  architecture  derived  its  forms  and  inspiration  from  Egypt  and 
Crete,  Babylonian  architecture,  through  the  ziggurat,  led  to  the  towers 
of  Moslem  mosques,  the  steeples  and  campaniles  of  medieval  art,  and  the 
"setback"  style  of  contemporary  architecture  in  America.  The  laws  of 
Hammurabi  became  for  all  ancient  societies  a  legacy  comparable  to 
Rome's  gift  of  order  and  government  to  the  modern  world.  Through 
Assyria's  conquest  of  Babylon,  her  appropriation  of  the  ancient  city's 
culture,  and  her  dissemination  of  that  culture  throughout  her  wide  em- 
pire; through  the  long  Captivity  of  the  Jews,  and  the  great  influence  upon 
them  of  Babylonian  life  and  thought;  through  the  Persian  and  Greek  con- 
quests, which  opened  with  unprecedented  fulness  and  freedom  all  the 
roads  of  communication  and  trade  between  Babylon  and  the  rising  cities 
of  Ionia,  Asia  Minor  and  Greece— through  these  and  many  other  ways 
the  civilization  of  the  Land  between  the  Rivers  passed  down  into  the 
cultural  endowment  of  our  race.  In  the  end  nothing  is  lost;  for  good  or 
evil  every  event  has  effects  forever. 




Beginnings  —  Cities  —  Race  —  The  conquerors  —  Sennacherib  and 
Esarhaddon  —  "Sardanapalus" 

MEANWHILE,  three  hundred  miles  north  of  Babylon,  another 
civilization  had  appeared.  Forced  to  maintain  a  hard  military  life 
by  the  mountain  tribes  always  threatening  it  on  every  side,  it  had  in  time 
overcome  its  assailants,  had  conquered  its  parent  cities  in  Elam,  Sumeria, 
Akkad  and  Babylonia,  had  mastered  Phoenicia  and  Egypt,  and  had  for 
two  centuries  dominated  the  Near  East  with  brutal  power.  Sumeria  was 
to  Babylonia,  and  Babylonia  to  Assyria,  what  Crete  was  to  Greece,  and 
Greece  to  Rome:  the  first  created  a  civilization,  the  second  developed  it  to 
its  height,  the  third  inherited  it,  added  little  to  it,  protected  it,  and  trans- 
mitted it  as  a  dying  gift  to  the  encompassing  and  victorious  barbarians. 
For  barbarism  is  always  around  civilization,  amid  it  and  beneath  it,  ready 
to  engulf  it  by  arms,  or  mass  migration,  or  unchecked  fertility.  Barbar- 
ism is  like  the  jungle;  it  never  admits  its  defeat;  it  waits  patiently  for  cen- 
turies to  recover  the  territory  it  has  lost. 

The  new  state  grew  about  four  cities  fed  by  the  waters  or  tributaries 
of  the  Tigris:  Ashur,  which  is  now  Kala'at-Sherghat;  Arbela,  which  is 
Irbil;  Kalakh,  which  is  Nimrud;  and  Nineveh,  which  is  Kuyunjik— just 
across  the  river  from  oily  Mosul.  At  Ashur  prehistoric  obsidian  flakes  and 
knives  have  been  found,  and  black  pottery  with  geometric  patterns  that 
suggest  a  central  Asian  origin;1  at  Tepe  Gawra,  near  the  site  of  Nineveh, 
a  recent  expedition  unearthed  a  town  which  its  proud  discoverers  date 
back  to  3700  B.C.,  despite  its  many  temples  and  tombs,  its  well-carved 
cylinder  seals,  its  combs  and  jewelry,  and  the  oldest  dice  known  to  his- 
tory1—a  thought  for  reformers.  The  god  Ashur  gave  his  name  to  a  city 
(and  finally  to  all  Assyria);  there  the  earliest  of  the  nation's  kings  had 
their  residence,  until  its  exposure  to  the  heat  of  the  desert  and  the  attacks 
of  the  neighboring  Babylonians  led  Ashur's  rulers  to  build  a  secondary 



capital  in  cooler  Nineveh—named  also  after  a  god,  Nina,  the  Ishtar  of 
Assyria.  Here,  in  the  heyday  of  Ashurbanipal,  300,000  people  lived,  and 
all  the  western  Orient  came  to  pay  tribute  to  the  Universal  King. 

The  population  was  a  mixture  of  Semites  from  the  civilized  south  (Baby- 
lonia and  Akkadia)  with  non-Semitic  tribes  from  the  west  (probably  of 
Hittite  or  Mitannian  affinity)  and  Kurdish  mountaineers  from  the  Caucasus.* 
They  took  their  common  language  and  their  arts  from  Sumeria,  but  modified 
them  later  into  an  almost  undistinguishable  similarity  to  the  language  and  arts 
of  Babylonia/  Their  circumstances,  however,  forbade  them  to  indulge  in 
the  effeminate  ease  of  Babylon;  from  beginning  to  end  they  were  a  race  of 
warriors,  mighty  in  muscle  and  courage,  abounding  in  proud  hair  and  beard, 
standing  straight,  stern  and  stolid  on  their  monuments,  and  bestriding  with 
tremendous  feet  the  east-Mediterranean  world.  Their  history  is  one  of  kings 
and  slaves,  wars  and  conquests,  bloody  victories  and  sudden  defeat.  The  early 
kings— once  mere  patens  tributary  to  the  south— took  advantage  of  the 
Kassite  domination  of  Babylonia  to  establish  their  independence;  and  soon 
enough  one  of  them  decked  himself  with  that  title  which  all  the  monarchs 
of  Assyria  were  to  display:  "King  of  Universal  Reign."  Out  of  the  dull 
dynasties  of  these  forgotten  potentates  certain  figures  emerge  whose  deeds 
illuminate  the  development  of  their  country.* 

While  Babylonia  was  still  in  the  darkness  of  the  Kassite  era,  Shalmaneser 
I  brought  the  little  city-states  of  the  north  under  one  rule,  and  made  Kalakh 
his  capital.  But  the  first  great  name  in  Assyrian  history  is  Tiglath-Pileser  I. 
He  was  a  mighty  hunter  before  the  Lord:  if  it  is  wise  to  believe  monarchs, 
he  slew  120  lions  on  foot,  and  800  from  his  chariot.6  One  of  his  inscriptions 
—written  by  a  scribe  more  royalist  than  the  King— tells  how  he  hunted  nations 
as  well  as  animals:  "In  my  fierce  valor  I  marched  against  the  people  of 
Qummuh,  conquered  their  cities,  carried  off  their  booty,  their  goods  and 
their  property  without  reckoning,  and  burned  their  cities  with  fire— destroyed 
and  devastated  them.  .  .  .  The  people  of  Adansh  left  their  mountains  and 
embraced  my  feet.  I  imposed  taxes  upon  them."6  In  every  direction  he  led 
his  armies,  conquering  the  Hittites,  the  Armenians,  and  forty  other  nations, 
capturing  Babylon,  and  frightening  Egypt  into  sending  him  anxious  gifts. 
(He  was  particularly  mollified  by  a  crocodile.)  With  the  proceeds  of  his  con- 
quests he  built  temples  to  the  Assyrian  gods  and  goddesses,  who,  like  anxious 

*A  tablet  recently  found  in  the  ruins  of  Sargon  IFs  library  at  Khorsabad  contains  an 
unbroken  list  of  Assyrian  kings  from  the  twenty-third  century  EJC.  to  Ashurnirari 
(753-46  B.C.)* 

CHAP.  X)  ASSYRIA  267 

debutantes,  asked  no  questions  about  the  source  of  his  wealth.  Then  Babylon 
revolted,  defeated  his  armies,  pillaged  his  temples,  and  carried  his  gods  into 
Babylonian  captivity.  Tiglath-Pileser  died  of  shame.7 

His  reign  was  a  symbol  and  summary  of  all  Assyrian  history:  death  and 
taxes,  first  for  Assyria's  neighbors,  then  for  herself.  Ashurnasirpal  II  con- 
quered a  dozen  petty  states,  brought  much  booty  home  from  the  wars,  cut 
out  with  his  own  hand  the  eyes  of  princely  captives,  enjoyed  his  harem,  and 
passed  respectably  away.8  Shalmaneser  III  carried  these  conquests  as  far  as 
Damascus;  fought  costly  battles,  killing  16,000  Syrians  in  one  engagement; 
built  temples,  levied  tribute,  and  was  deposed  by  his  son  in  a  violent  revolu- 
tion.9 Sammuramat  ruled  as  queen-mother  for  three  years,  and  provided  a 
frail  historical  basis  (for  this  is  all  that  we  know  of  her)  for  the  Greek  legend 
of  Semiramis— half  goddess  and  half  queen,  great  general,  great  engineer  and 
great  statesman—so  attractively  detailed  by  Diodorus  the  Sicilian.10  Tiglath- 
Pileser  III  gathered  new  armies,  reconquered  Armenia,  overran  Syria  and 
Babylonia,  made  vassal  cities  of  Damascus,  Samaria  and  Babylon,  extended  the 
rule  of  Assyria  from  the  Caucasus  to  Egypt,  tired  of  war,  became  an  excel- 
lent administrator,  built  many  temples  and  palaces,  held  his  empire  together 
with  an  iron  hand,  and  died  peacefully  in  bed.  Sargon  II,  an  officer  in  the 
army,  made  himself  king  by  a  Napoleonic  coup  d'etat;  led  his  troops  in  per- 
son, and  took  in  every  engagement  the  most  dangerous  post;11  defeated  Elam 
and  Egypt,  reconquered  Babylonia,  and  received  the  homage  of  the  Jews,  the 
Philistines,  even  of  the  Cypriote  Greeks;  ruled  his  empire  well,  encouraged 
arts  and  letters,  handicrafts  and  trade,  and  died  in  a  victorious  battle  that 
definitely  preserved  Assyria  from  invasion  by  the  wild  Cimmerian  hordes. 

His  son  Sennacherib  put  down  revolts  in  the  distant  provinces  adjoin- 
ing the  Persian  Gulf,  attacked  Jerusalem  and  Egypt  without  success,* 
sacked  eighty-nine  cities  and  820  villages,  captured  7,200  horses,  n,ooo 
asses,  80,000  oxen,  800,000  sheep,  and  208,000  prisoners;18  the  official  his- 
torian, on  his  life,  did  not  understate  these  figures.  Then,  irritated  by  the 
prejudice  of  Babylon  in  favor  of  freedom,  he  besieged  it,  took  it,  and 
burned  it  to  the  ground;  nearly  all  the  inhabitants,  young  and  old,  male 
and  female,  were  put  to  death,  so  that  mountains  of  corpses  blocked  the 
streets;  the  temples  and  palaces  were  pillaged  to  the  last  shekel,  and  the 
once  omnipotent  gods  of  Babylon  were  hacked  to  pieces  or  carried  in 

*  Egyptian  tradition  attributed  the  escape  of  Egypt  to  discriminating  field  mice  who  ate 
up  the  quivers,  bow-strings  and  shield-straps  of  the  Assyrians  encamped  before  Pelusium, 
so  that  the  Egyptians  were  enabled  to  defeat  the  invaders  easily  the  next  day." 


bondage  to  Nineveh:  Marduk  the  god  became  a  menial  to  Ashur.  Such 
Babylonians  as  survived  did  not  conclude  that  Marduk  had  been  over- 
rated; they  told  themselves— as  the  captive  Jews  would  tell  themselves  a 
century  later  in  that  same  Babylon— that  their  god  had  condescended  to 
be  defeated  in  order  to  punish  his  people.  With  the  spoils  of  his  con- 
quests and  pillage  Sennacherib  rebuilt  Nineveh,  changed  the  courses  of 
rivers  to  protect  it,  reclaimed  waste  lands  with  the  vigor  of  countries 
suffering  from  an  agricultural  surplus,  and  was  assassinated  by  his  sons 
while  piously  mumbling  his  prayers.14 

Another  son,  Esarhaddon,  snatched  the  throne  from  his  blood-stained 
brothers,  invaded  Egypt  to  punish  her  for  supporting  Syrian  revolts,  made 
her  an  Assyrian  province,  amazed  western  Asia  with  his  long  triumphal 
progress  from  Memphis  to  Nineveh,  dragging  endless  booty  in  his  train; 
established  Assyria  in  unprecedented  prosperity  as  master  of  the  whole 
Near  Eastern  world;  delighted  Babylonia  by  freeing  and  honoring  its  cap- 
tive gods,  and  rebuilding  its  shattered  capital;  conciliated  Elam  by  feeding 
its  famine-stricken  people  in  an  act  of  international  beneficence  almost 
without  parallel  in  the  ancient  world;  and  died  on  the  way  to  suppress  a 
revolt  in  Egypt,  after  giving  his  empire  the  justest  and  kindliest  rule  in 
its  half -barbarous  history. 

His  successor,  Ashurbanipal  (the  Sardanapalus  of  the  Greeks),  reaped 
the  fruits  of  Esarhaddon's  sowing.  During  his  long  reign  Assyria  reached 
the  climax  of  its  wealth  and  prestige;  after  him  his  country,  ruined  by 
forty  years  of  intermittent  war,  fell  into  exhaustion  and  decay,  and  ended 
its  career  hardly  a  decade  after  Ashurbanipal's  death.  A  scribe  has  pre- 
served to  us  a  yearly  record  of  this  reign;10  it  is  a  dull  and  bloody  mess  of 
war  after  war,  siege  after  siege,  starved  cities  and  flayed  captives.  The 
scribe  represents  Ashurbanipal  himself  as  reporting  his  destruction  of 

For  a  distance  of  one  month  and  twenty-five  days'  march  I  devas- 
tated the  districts  of  Elam.  I  spread  salt  and  thorn-bush  there  (to 
injure  the  soil).  Sons  of  the  kings,  sisters  of  the  kings,  members  of 
Elam's  royal  family  young  and  old,  prefects,  governors,  knights,  arti- 
sans, as  many  as  there  were,  inhabitants  male  and  female,  big  and 
little,  horses,  mules,  asses,  flocks  and  herds  more  numerous  than  a 
swarm  of  locusts—I  carried  them  off  as  booty  to  Assyria.  The  dust 
of  Susa,  of  Madaktu,  of  Haltemash  and  of  their  other  cities,  I  carried 
it  off  to  Assyria.  In  a  month  of  days  I  subdued  Elam  in  its  whole 

CHAP.  X)  ASSYRIA  269 

extent.  The  voice  of  man,  the  steps  of  flocks  and  herds,  the  happy 
shouts  of  mirth— I  put  an  end  to  them  in  its  fields,  which  I  left  for 
the  asses,  the  gazelles,  and  all  manner  of  wild  beasts  to  people.1* 

The  .severed  head  of  the  Elamite  king  was  brought  to  Ashurbanipal  as  he 
feasted  with  his  queen  in  the  palace  garden;  he  had  the  head  raised  on  a 
pole  in  the  midst  of  his  guests,  and  the  royal  revel  went  on;  later  the 
head  was  fixed  over  the  gate  of  Nineveh,  and  slowly  rotted  away.  The 
Elamite  general,  Dananu,  was  flayed  alive,  and  then  was  bled  like  a  lamb; 
his  brother  had  his  throat  cut,  and  his  body  was  divided  into  pieces,  which 
were  distributed  over  the  country  as  souvenirs." 

It  never  occurred  to  Ashurbanipal  that  he  and  his  men  were  brutal; 
these  clean-cut  penalties  were  surgical  necessities  in  his  attempt  to  remove 
rebellions  and  establish  discipline  among  the  heterogeneous  and  turbulent 
peoples,  from  Ethiopia  to  Armenia,  and  from  Syria  to  Media,  whom  his 
predecessors  had  subjected  to  Assyrian  rule;  it  was  his  obligation  to  main- 
tain this  legacy  intact.  He  boasted  of  the  peace  that  he  had  established  in 
his  empire,  and  of  the  good  order  that  prevailed  in  its  cities;  and  the 
boast  was  not  without  truth.  That  he  was  not  merely  a  conqueror  intoxi- 
cated with  blood  he  proved  by  his  munificence  as  a  builder  and  as  a 
patron  of  letters  and  the  arts.  Like  some  Roman  ruler  calling  to  the 
Greeks,  he  sent  to  all  his  dominions  for  sculptors  and  architects  to  design 
and  adorn  new  temples  and  palaces;  he  commissioned  innumerable  scribes 
to  secure  and  copy  for  him  all  the  classics  of  Sumerian  and  Babylonian 
' literature,  and  gathered  these  copies  in  his  library  at  Nineveh,  where 
modern  scholarship  found  them  almost  intact  after  twenty-five  centuries 
of  time  had  flowed  over  them.  Like  another  Frederick,  he  was  as  vain 
of  his  literary  abilities  as  of  his  triumphs  in  war  and  the  chase."  Diodorus 
describes  him  as  a  dissolute  and  bisexual  Nero,"  but  in  the  wealth  of  docu- 
ments that  have  come  down  to  us  from  this  period  there  is  little  corrobo- 
ration  for  this  view.  From  the  composition  of  literary  tablets  Ashurbani- 
pal passed  with  royal  confidence— armed  only  with  knife  and  javelin— to 
hand-to-hand  encounters  with  lions;  if  we  may  credit  the  reports  of  his 
contemporaries  he  did  not  hesitate  to  lead  the  attack  in  person,  and  often 
dealt  with  his  own  hand  the  decisive  blow."  Little  wonder  that  Byron  was 
fascinated  with  him,  and  wove  about  him  a  drama  half  legend  and  half 
history,  in  which  all  the  wealth  and  power  of  Assyria  came  to  their 
height,  and  broke  into  universal  ruin  and  royal  despair. 



Imperialism— Assyrian  'war— The  conscript  gods— Law— Delicacies 

of  penology  —  Administration  —  The  violence  of  Oriental 


If  we  should  admit  the  imperial  principle— that  it  is  good,  for  the  sake 
of  spreading  law,  security,  commerce  and  peace,  that  many  states  should 
be  brought,  by  persuasion  or  force,  under  the  authority  of  one  govern- 
ment—then we  should  have  to  concede  to  Assyria  the  distinction  of  having 
established  in  western  Asia  a  larger  measure  and  area  of  order  and  pros- 
perity than  that  region  of  the  earth  had  ever,  to  our  knowledge,  enjoyed 
before.  The  government  of  Ashurbanipal— which  ruled  Assyria,  Baby- 
lonia, Armenia,  Media,  Palestine,  Syria,  Phoenicia,  Sumeria,  Elam  and 
Egypt— was  without  doubt  the  most  extensive  administrative  organization 
yet  seen  in  the  Mediterranean  or  Near  Eastern  world;  only  Hammurabi 
and  Thutmose  III  had  approached  it,  and  Persia  alone  would  equal  it  be- 
fore the  coming  of  Alexander.  In  some  ways  it  was  a  liberal  empire;  its 
larger  cities  retained  considerable  local  autonomy,  and  each  nation  in 
it  was  left  its  own  religion,  law  and  ruler,  provided  it  paid  its  tribute 
promptly.81  In  so  loose  an  organization  every  weakening  of  the  central 
power  was  bound  to  produce  rebellions,  or,  at  the  best,  a  certain  tributary 
negligence,  so  that  the  subject  states  had  to  be  conquered  again  and  again. 
To  avoid  these  recurrent  rebellions  Tiglath-Pilcser  III  established  the 
characteristic  Assyrian  policy  of  deporting  conquered  populations  to  alien 
habitats,  where,  mingling  with  the  natives,  they  might  lose  their  unity 
and  identity,  and  have  less  opportunity  to  rebel.  Revolts  came  neverthe- 
less, and  Assyria  had  to  keep  herself  always  ready  for  war. 

The  army  was  therefore  the  most  vital  part  of  the  government.  Assyria 
recognized  frankly  that  government  is  the  nationalization  of  force,  and 
her  chief  contributions  to  progress  were  in  the  art  of  war.  Chariots, 
cavalry,  infantry  and  sappers  were  organized  into  flexible  formations, 
siege  mechanisms  were  as  highly  developed  as  among  the  Romans,  strat- 
egy and  tactics  were  well  understood."  Tactics  centered  about  the  idea 
of  rapid  movement  making  possible  a  piecemeal  attack— so  old  is  the  secret 
of  Napoleon.  Iron-working  had  grown  to  the  point  of  encasing  the  warrior 
with  armor  to  a  degree  of  stiffness  rivaling  a  medieval  knight;  even  the 
archers  and  pikemen  wore  copper  or  iron  helmets,  padded  loin-cloths, 

CHAP.  X)  ASSYRIA  271 

enormous  shields,  and  a  leather  skirt  covered  with  metal  scales.  The 
weapons  were  arrows,  lances,  cutlasses,  maces,  clubs,  slings  and  battle- 
axes.  The  nobility  fought  from  chariots  in  the  van  of  the  battle,  and  the 
king,  in  his  royal  chariot,  usually  led  them  in  person;  generals  had  not 
yet  learned  to  die  in  bed.  Ashurnasirpal  introduced  the  use  of  cavalry  as 
an  aid  to  the  chariots,  and  this  innovation  proved  decisive  in  many  en- 
gagements. M  The  principal  siege  engine  was  a  battering-ram  tipped  with 
iron;  sometimes  it  was  suspended  from  a  scaffold  by  ropes,  and  was  swung 
back  to  give  it  forward  impetus;  sometimes  it  was  run  forward  on  wheels. 
The  besieged  fought  from  the  walls  with  missiles,  torches,  burning  pitch, 
chains  designed  to  entangle  the  ram,  and  gaseous  "stink-pots"  (as  they 
were  called)  to  befuddle  the  enemy;24  again  the  novel  is  not  new.  A  cap- 
tured city  was  usually  plundered  and  burnt  to  the  ground,  and  its  site 
was  deliberately  denuded  by  killing  its  trees.*5  The  loyalty  of  the  troops 
was  secured  by  dividing  a  large  part  of  the  spoils  among  them;  their 
bravery  was  ensured  by  the  general  rule  of  the  Near  East  that  all  captives 
in  war  might  be  enslaved  or  slain.  Soldiers  were  rewarded  for  every  sev- 
ered head  they  brought  in  from  the  field,  so  that  the  aftermath  of  a  vic- 
tory generally  witnessed  the  wholesale  decapitation  of  fallen  foes.89  Most 
often  the  prisoners,  who  would  have  consumed  much  food  in  a  long 
campaign,  and  would  have  constituted  a  danger  and  nuisance  in  the  rear, 
were  despatched  after  the  battle;  they  knelt  with  their  backs  to  their 
captors,  who  beat  their  heads  in  with  clubs,  or  cut  them  off  with  cutlasses. 
Scribes  stood  by  to  count  the  number  of  prisoners  taken  and  killed  by 
each  soldier,  and  apportioned  the  booty  accordingly;  the  king,  if  time 
permitted,  presided  at  the  slaughter.  The  nobles  among  the  defeated 
were  given  more  special  treatment:  their  ears,  noses,  hands  and  feet  were 
sliced  off,  or  they  were  thrown  from  high  towers,  or  they  and  their  chil- 
dren were  beheaded,  or  flayed  alive,  or  roasted  over  a  slow  fire.  No  com- 
punction seems  to  have  been  felt  at  this  waste  of  human  life;  the  birth 
rate  would  soon  make  up  for  it,  and  meanwhile  it  relieved  the  pressure  of 
population  upon  the  means  of  subsistence."  Probably  it  was  in  part  by 
their  reputation  for  mercy  to  prisoners  of  war  that  Alexander  and  Caesar 
undermined  the  morale  of  the  enemy,  and  conquered  the  Mediterranean 

Next  to  the  army  the  chief  reliance  of  the  monarch  was  upon  the  church, 
and  he  paid  lavishly  for  the  support  of  the  priests.   The  formal  head  of  the 


state  was  by  concerted  fiction  the  god  Ashur;  all  pronouncements  were  in 
his  name,  all  laws  were  edicts  of  his  divine  will,  all  taxes  were  collected  for 
his  treasury,  all  campaigns  were  fought  to  furnish  him  (or,  occasionally,  an- 
other deity)  with  spoils  and  glory.  The  king  had  himself  described  as  a  god, 
usually  an  incarnation  of  Shamash,  the  sun.  The  religion  of  Assyria,  like  its 
language,  its  science  and  its  arts,  was  imported  from  Sumeria  and  Babylonia, 
with  occasional  adaptations  to  the  needs  of  a  military  state. 

The  adaptation  was  most  visible  in  the  case  of  the  law,  which  was  dis- 
tinguished by  a  martial  ruthlessness.  Punishment  ranged  from  public  exhibi- 
tion to  forced  labor,  twenty  to  a  hundred  lashes,  the  slitting  of  nose  and 
ears,  castration,  pulling  out  the  tongue,  gouging  out  the  eyes,  impalement, 
and  beheading.28  The  laws  of  Sargon  II  prescribe  such  additional  delicacies 
as  the  drinking  of  poison,  and  the  burning  of  the  offender's  son  or  daughter 
alive  on  the  altar  of  the  god;20  but  there  is  no  evidence  of  these  laws  being 
carried  out  in  the  last  millennium  before  Christ.  Adultery,  rape  and  some 
forms  of  theft  were  considered  capital  crimes.30  Trial  by  ordeal  was  occa- 
sionally employed;  the  accused,  sometimes  bound  in  fetters,  was  flung  into 
the  river,  and  his  guilt  was  left  to  the  arbitrament  of  the  water.  In  general 
Assyrian  law  was  less  secular  and  more  primitive  than  the  Babylonian  Code 
of  Hammurabi,  which  apparently  preceded  it  in  time.* 

Local  administration,  originally  by  feudal  barons,  fell  in  the  course  of  time 
into  the  hands  of  provincial  prefects  or  governors  appointed  by  the  king;  this 
form  of  imperial  government  was  taken  over  by  Persia,  and  passed  on  from 
Persia  to  Rome.  The  prefects  were  expected  to  collect  taxes,  to  organize 
the  corvee  for  works  which,  like  irrigation,  could  not  be  left  to  personal 
initiative;  and  above  all  to  raise  regiments  and  lead  them  in  the  royal  cam- 
paigns. Meanwhile  royal  spies  (or,  as  we  should  say,  "intelligence  officers") 
kept  watch  on  these  prefects  and  their  aides,  and  informed  the  king  con- 
cerning the  state  of  the  nation. 

All  in  all,  the  Assyrian  government  was  primarily  an  instrument  of 
war.  For  war  was  often  more  profitable  than  peace;  it  cemented  dis- 
cipline, intensified  patriotism,  strengthened  the  royal  power,  and  brought 
abundant  spoils  and  slaves  for  the  enrichment  and  service  of  the  capital. 
Hence  Assyrian  history  is  largely  a  picture  of  cities  sacked  and  villages 
or  fields  laid  waste.  When  Ashurbanipal  suppressed  the  revolt  of  his 
brother,  Shamash-shum-ukin,  and  captured  Babylon  after  a  long  and 
bitter  siege, 

*  The  oldest  extant  Assyrian  laws  are  ninety  articles  contained  on  three  tablets  found  at 
Ashur  and  dating  ca.  1300  H.C.SI 

CHAP.  X)  ASSYRIA  *73 

the  city  presented  a  terrible  spectacle,  and  shocked  even  the 
Assyrians.  .  .  .  Most  of  the  numerous  victims  to  pestilence  or 
famine  lay  about  the  streets  or  in  the  public  squares,  a  prey  to  the 
dogs  and  swine;  such  of  the  inhabitants  and  the  soldiery  as  were 
comparatively  strong  had  endeavored  to  escape  into  the  country, 
and  only  those  remained  who  had  not  sufficient  strength  to  drag 
themselves  beyond  the  walls.  Ashurbanipal  pursued  the  fugitives, 
and  having  captured  nearly  all  of  them,  vented  on  them  the  full 
fury  of  his  vengeance.  He  caused  the  tongues  of  the  soldiers  to  be 
torn  out,  and  then  had  them  clubbed  to  death.  He  massacred  the 
common  folk  in  front  of  the  great  winged  bulls  which  had  already 
witnessed  a  similar  butchery  half  a  century  before  under  his  grand- 
father Sennacherib.  The  corpses  of  the  victims  remained  long  un- 
buried,  a  prey  to  all  unclean  beasts  and  birds.8" 

The  weakness  of  Oriental  monarchies  was  bound  up  with  this  addiction 
to  violence.  Not  only  did  the  subject  provinces  repeatedly  revolt,  but 
within  the  royal  palace  or  family  itself  violence  again  and  again  attempted 
to  upset  what  violence  had  established  and  maintained.  At  or  near  the  end 
of  almost  every  reign  some  disturbance  broke  out  over  the  succession  to 
the  throne;  the  aging  monarch  saw  conspiracies  forming  around  him,  and 
in  several  cases  he  was  hastened  to  his  end  by  murder.  The  nations  of  the 
Near  East  preferred  violent  uprisings  to  corrupt  elections,  and  their  form 
of  recall  was  assassination.  Some  of  these  wars  were  doubtless  inevitable: 
barbarians  prowled  about  every  frontier,  and  one  reign  of  weakness 
would  see  the  Scythians,  the  Cimmerians,  or  some  other  horde,  sweeping 
down  upon  the  wealth  of  the  Assyrian  cities.  And  perhaps  we  exaggerate 
the  frequency  of  war  and  violence  in  these  Oriental  states,  through  the 
accident  that  ancient  monuments  and  modern  chroniclers  have  preserved 
the  dramatic  record  of  battles,  and  ignored  the  victories  of  peace.  His- 
torians have  been  prejudiced  in  favor  of  bloodshed;  they  found  it,  or 
thought  their  readers  would  find  it,  more  interesting  than  the  quiet 
achievements  of  the  mind.  We  think  war  less  frequent  today  because  we 
are  conscious  of  the  lucid  intervals  of  peace,  while  history  seems  con- 
scious only  of  the  fevered  crises  of  war. 



Industry  and  trade—Marriage  and  morals— Religion  and  science- 
Letters  and  libraries— The  Assyrian  ideal  of  a  gentleman 

The  economic  life  of  Assyria  did  not  differ  much  from  that  of  Baby- 
lonia, for  in  many  ways  the  two  countries  were  merely  the  north  and 
south  of  one  civilization.  The  southern  kingdom  was  more  commercial,  the 
northern  more  agricultural;  rich  Babylonians  were  usually  merchants,  rich 
Assyrians  were  most  often  landed  gentry  actively  supervising  great  estates, 
and  looking  with  Roman  scorn  upon  men  who  made  their  living  by  buying 
cheap  and  selling  dear."  Nevertheless  the  same  rivers  flooded  and  nour- 
ished the  land,  the  same  method  of  ridges  and  canals  controlled  the  over- 
flow, the  same  shadufs  raised  the  water  from  ever  deeper  beds  to  fields 
sown  with  the  same  wheat  and  barley,  millet  and  sesame.*  The  same  in- 
dustries supported  the  life  of  the  towns;  the  same  system  of  weights  and 
measures  governed  the  exchange  of  goods;  and  though  Nineveh  and  her 
sister  capitals  were  too  far  north  to  be  great  centers  of  commerce,  the 
wealth  brought  to  them  by  Assyria's  sovereigns  filled  them  with  handicrafts 
and  trade.  Metal  was  mined  or  imported  in  new  abundance,  and  towards 
700  B.C.  iron  replaced  bronze  as  the  basic  metal  of  industry  and  armament.85 
Metal  was  cast,  glass  was  blown,  textiles  were  dyed,t  earthenware  was 
enameled,  and  houses  were  as  well  equipped  in  Nineveh  as  in  Europe  before 
the  Industrial  Revolution.88  During  the  reign  of  Sennacherib  an  aqueduct  was 
built  which  brought  water  to  Nineveh  from  thirty  miles  away;  a  thousand 
feet  of  it,  recently  discovered,^  constitute  the  oldest  aqueduct  known.  In- 
dustry and  trade  were  financed  in  part  by  private  bankers,  who  charged 
25%  for  loans.  Lead,  copper,  silver  and  gold  served  as  currency;  and  about 
700  B.C.  Sennacherib  minted  silver  into  half-shekel  pieces— one  of  our  earliest 
examples  of  an  official  coinage.87 

The  people  fell  into  five  classes:  patricians  or  nobles;  craftsmen  or  master- 
artisans,  organized  in  guilds,  and  including  the  professions  as  well  as  the 
trades;  the  unskilled  but  free  workmen  and  peasants  of  town  and  village; 
serfs  bound  to  the  soil  on  great  estates,  in  the  manner  of  medieval  Europe; 

*  Other  products  of  Assyrian  cultivation  were  olives,  grapes,  garlic,  onions,  lettuce, 
cress,  beets,  turnips,  radishes,  cucumbers,  alfalfa,  and  licorice.  Meat  was  rarely  eaten  by 
any  but  the  aristocracy;*4  except  for  fish  this  war-like  nation  was  largely  vegetarian. 

fA  tablet  of  Sennacherib,  ca.  700  B.C.,  contains  the  oldest  known  reference  to  cotton: 
"The  tree  that  bore  wool  they  clipped  and  shredded  for  cotton."*'  It  was  probably  im- 
ported from  India. 

$By  the  Iraq  Expedition  of  the  Oriental  Institute  of  the  University  of  Chicago. 

CHAP.  X)  ASSYRIA  275 

and  slaves  captured  in  war  or  attached  for  debt,  compelled  to  announce 
their  status  by  pierced  ears  and  shaven  head,  and  performing  most  of  the 
menial  labor  everywhere.  On  a  bas-relief  of  Sennacherib  we  see  super- 
visers  holding  the  whip  over  slaves  who,  in  long  parallel  lines,  are  drawing  a 
heavy  piece  of  statuary  on  a  wooden  sledge.88 

Like  all  military  states,  Assyria  encouraged  a  high  birth  rate  by  its 
moral  code  and  its  laws.  Abortion  was  a  capital  crime;  a  woman  who 
secured  miscarriage,  even  a  woman  who  died  of  attempting  it,  was  to  be 
impaled  on  a  stake.30  Though  women  rose  to  considerable  power  through 
marriage  and  intrigue,  their  position  was  lower  than  in  Babylonia.  Severe 
penalties  were  laid  upon  them  for  striking  their  husbands,  wives  were  not 
allowed  to  go  out  in  public  unveiled,  and  strict  fidelity  was  exacted  of 
them— though  their  husbands  might  have  all  the  concubines  they  could 
afford.40  Prostitution  was  accepted  as  inevitable,  and  was  regulated  by  the 
state.40"  The  king  had  a  varied  harem,  whose  inmates  were  condemned  to 
a  secluded  life  of  dancing,  singing,  quarreling,  needlework  and  conspir- 
acy.41 A  cuckolded  husband  might  kill  his  rival  in  flagrante  delicto,  and 
was  held  to  be  within  his  rights;  this  is  a  custom  that  has  survived  many 
codes.  For  the  rest  the  law  of  matrimony  was  as  in  Babylonia,  except 
that  marriage  was  often  by  simple  purchase,  and  in  many  cases  the  wife 
lived  in  her  father's  house,  visited  occasionally  by  her  husband." 

In  all  departments  of  Assyrian  life  we  meet  with  a  patriarchal  stern- 
ness natural  to  a  people  that  lived  by  conquest,  and  in  every  sense  on  the 
border  of  barbarism.  Just  as  the  Romans  took  thousands  of  prisoners  into 
lifelong  slavery  after  their  victories,  and  dragged  others  to  the  Circus 
Maximus  to  be  torn  to  pieces  by  starving  animals,  so  the  Assyrians  seemed 
to  find  satisfaction— or  a  necessary  tutelage  for  their  sons— in  torturing 
captives,  blinding  children  before  the  eyes  of  their  parents,  flaying  men 
alive,  roasting  them  in  kilns,  chaining  them  in  cages  for  the  amusement  of 
the  populace,  and  then  sending  the  survivors  off  to  execution.43  Ashur- 
nasirpal  tells  how  "all  the  chiefs  who  had  revolted  I  flayed,  with  their 
skins  I  covered  the  pillar,  some  in  the  midst  I  walled  up,  others  on  stakes 
1  impaled,  still  others  I  arranged  around  the  pillar  on  stakes.  ...  As  for 
the  chieftains  and  royal  officers  who  had  rebelled,  I  cut  off  their  mem- 
bers."44 Ashurbanipal  boasts  that  "I  burned  three  thousand  captives  with 
fire,  I  left  not  a  single  one  among  them  alive  to  serve  as  a  hostage."4* 
Another  of  his  inscriptions  reads:  "These  warriors  who  had  sinned  against 


Ashur  and  had  plotted  evil  against  me  ...  from  their  hostile  mouths  have 
I  torn  their  tongues,  and  I  have  compassed  their  destruction.  As  for  the 
others  who  remained  alive,  I  offered  them  as  a  funerary  sacrifice;  .  .  . 
their  lacerated  members  have  I  given  unto  the  dogs,  the  swine,  the  wolves. 
...  By  accomplishing  these  deeds  I  have  rejoiced  the  heart  of  the  great 
gods.""  Another  monarch  instructs  his  artisans  to  engrave  upon  the 
bricks  these  claims  on  the  admiration  of  posterity:  "My  war  chariots 
crush  men  and  beasts.  .  .  .  The  monuments  which  I  erect  are  made  of 
human  corpses  from  which  I  have  cut  the  head  and  limbs.  I  cut  off  the 
hands  of  all  those  whom  I  capture  alive."47  Reliefs  at  Nineveh  show  men 
being  impaled  or  flayed,  or  having  their  tongues  torn  out;  one  shows  a 
king  gouging  out  the  eyes  of  prisoners  with  a  lance  while  he  holds  their 
heads  conveniently  in  place  with  a  cord  passed  through  their  lips."  As  we 
read  such  pages  we  become  reconciled  to  our  own  mediocrity. 

Religion  apparently  did  nothing  to  mollify  this  tendency  to  brutality  and 
violence.  It  had  less  influence  with  the  government  than  in  Babylonia,  and 
took  its  cue  from  the  needs  and  tastes  of  the  kings.  Ashur,  the  national 
deity,  was  a  solar  god,  warlike  and  merciless  to  his  enemies;  his  people  be- 
lieved that  he  took  a  divine  satisfaction  in  the  execution  of  prisoners  before 
his  shrine.'9  The  essential  function  of  Assyrian  religion  was  to  train  the 
future  citizen  to  a  patriotic  docility,  and  to  teach  him  the  art  of  wheedling 
favors  out  of  the  gods  by  magic  and  sacrifice.  The  only  religious  texts  that 
survive  from  Assyria  are  exorcisms  and  omens.  Long  lists  of  omens  have 
come  down  to  us  in  which  the  inevitable  results  of  every  manner  of  event 
are  given,  and  methods  of  avoiding  them  are  prescribed.150  The  world  was 
pictured  as  crowded  with  demons,  who  had  to  be  warded  off  by  charms 
suspended  about  the  neck,  or  by  long  and  careful  incantations. 

In  such  an  atmosphere  the  only  science  that  flourished  was  that  of  war. 
Assyrian  medicine  was  merely  Babylonian  medicine;  Assyrian  astronomy 
was  merely  Babylonian  astrology— the  stars  were  studied  chiefly  with  a  view 
to  divination."  We  find  no  evidence  of  philosophical  speculation,  no  se- 
cular attempt  to  explain  the  world.  Assyrian  philologists  made  lists  of  plants, 
probably  for  the  use  of  medicine,  and  thereby  contributed  moderately  to 
establish  botany;  other  scribes  made  lists  of  nearly  all  the  objects  they  had 
found  under  the  sun,  and  their  attempts  to  classify  these  objects  ministered 
slightly  to  the  natural  science  of  the  Greeks.  From  these  lists  our  language 
has  taken,  usually  through  the  Greeks,  such  words  as  hangar,  gypsum,  camel, 
plinth,  shekel,  rose,  ammonia,  jasper,  cane,  cherry,  laudanum*  naphtha,  sesame, 
hyssop  and  myrrh* 

CHAP.  X)  ASSYRIA  277 

The  tablets  recording  the  deeds  of  the  kings,  though  they  have  the 
distinction  of  being  at  once  bloody  and  dull,  must  be  accorded  the  honor 
of  being  among  the  oldest  extant  forms  of  historiography.  They  were  in 
the  early  years  mere  chronicles,  registering  royal  victories,  and  admitting 
of  no  defeats;  they  became,  in  later  days,  embellished  and  literary  ac- 
counts of  the  important  events  of  the  reign.  The  clearest  title  of  Assyria 
to  a  place  in  a  history  of  civilization  was  its  libraries.  That  of  Ashur- 
banipal  contained  30,000  clay  tablets,  classified  and  catalogued,  each  tablet 
bearing  an  easily  identifiable  tag.  Many  of  them  bore  the  King's  book- 
mark: "Whoso  shall  carry  off  this  tablet,  .  .  .  may  Ashur  and  Belit  over- 
throw him  in  wrath  .  .  .  and  destroy  his  name  and  posterity  from  the 
land."53  A  large  number  of  the  tablets  are  copies  of  undated  older  works, 
of  which  earlier  forms  are  being  constantly  discovered;  the  avowed  pur- 
pose of  AshurbanipaPs  library  was  to  preserve  the  literature  of  Baby- 
lonia from  oblivion.  But  only  a  small  number  of  the  tablets  would  now 
be  classed  as  literature;  the  majority  of  them  are  official  records,  astro- 
logical and  augural  observations,  oracles,  medical  prescriptions  and  re- 
ports, exorcisms,  hymns,  prayers,  and  genealogies  of  the  kings  and  the 
gods."  Among  the  least  dull  of  the  tablets  are  two  in  which  Ashur- 
banipal  confesses,  with  quaint  insistence,  his  scandalous  delight  in  books 
and  knowledge: 

I,  Ashurbanipal,  understood  the  wisdom  of  Nabu,*  I  acquired  an 
understanding  of  all  the  arts  of  tablet-writing.  I  learnt  to  shoot  the 
bow,  to  ride  horses  and  chariots,  and  to  hold  the  reins.  .  .  .  Mar- 
duk,  the  wise  one  of  the  gods,  presented  me  with  information  and 
understanding  as  a  gift.  .  .  .  Enurt  and  Nergal  made  me  virile  and 
strong,  of  incomparable  force.  I  understood  the  craft  of  the  wise 
Adapa,  the  hidden  secrets  of  all  the  scribal  art;  in  heavenly  and 
earthly  buildings  I  read  and  pondered;  in  the  meetings  of  clerks  I 
was  present;  I  watched  the  omens,  I  explained  the  heavens  with  the 
learned  priests,  recited  the  complicated  multiplications  and  divisions 
that  are  not  immediately  apparent.  The  beautiful  writings  in  Su- 
merian  that  are  obscure,  in  Akkadian  that  are  difficult  to  bear  in  mind, 
it  was  my  joy  to  repeat.  ...  I  mounted  colts,  rode  them  with 
prudence  so  that  they  were  not  violent;  I  drew  the  bow,  sped  the 
arrow,  the  sign  of  the  warrior.  I  flung  the  quivering  javelins  like 
short  lances.  ...  I  held  the  reins  like  a  charioteer.  ...  I  directed 

*  The  god  of  wisdom,  corresponding  to  Thoth,  Hermes  and  Mercury. 


the  weaving  of  reed  shields  and  breastplates  like  a  pioneer.  I  had 
the  learning  that  all  clerks  of  every  kind  possess  when  their  time  of 
maturity  comes.  At  the  same  time  I  learnt  what  is  proper  for  lord- 
ship, I  went  my  royal  ways.80 


Minor  arts  —  Bas-relief  —  Statuary  —  Building  —  A  page  from 

At  last,  in  the  field  of  art,  Assyria  equaled  her  preceptor  Babylonia, 
and  in  bas-relief  surpassed  her.  Stimulated  by  the  influx  of  wealth  into 
Ashur,  Kalakh  and  Nineveh,  artists  and  artisans  began  to  produce— for 
nobles  and  their  ladies,  for  kings  and  palaces,  for  priests  and  temples- 
jewels  of  every  description,  cast  metal  as  skilfully  designed  and  finely 
wrought  as  on  the  great  gates  at  Balawat,  and  luxurious  furniture  of  richly 
carved  and  costly  woods  strengthened  with  metal  and  inlaid  with  gold, 
silver,  bronze,  or  precious  stones.50  Pottery  was  poorly  developed,  and 
music,  like  so  much  else,  was  merely  imported  from  Babylon;  but  tem- 
pera painting  in  bright  colors  under  a  thin  glaze  became  one  of  the  char- 
acteristic arts  of  Assyria,  from  which  it  passed  to  its  perfection  in 
Persia.  Painting,  as  always  in  the  ancient  East,  was  a  secondary  and  de- 
pendent art. 

In  the  heyday  of  Sargon  II,  Sennacherib,  Esarhaddon  and  Ashurbani- 
pal,  and  presumably  through  their  lavish  patronage,  the  art  of  bas-relief 
created  new  masterpieces  for  the  British  Museum.  One  of  the  best  ex- 
amples, however,  dates  from  Ashurnasirpal  II;  it  represents,  in  chaste 
alabaster,  the  good  god  Marduk  overcoming  the  evil  god  of  chaos, 
Tiamat.17  The  human  figures  in  Assyrian  reliefs  are  stiff  and  coarse  and 
all  alike,  as  if  some  perfect  model  had  insisted  on  being  reproduced  for- 
ever; all  the  men  have  the  same  massive  heads,  the  same  brush  of  whiskers, 
the  same  stout  bellies,  the  same  invisible  necks;  even  the  gods  are  these 
same  Assyrians  in  very  slight  disguise.  Only  now  and  then  do  the  human 
figures  take  on  vitality,  as  in  the  alabaster  relief  depicting  spirits  in  adora- 
tion before  a  palmetto  tree,58  and  the  fine  limestone  stele  of  Shamsi-Adad 
VII  found  at  Kalakh.89  Usually  it  is  the  animal  reliefs  that  stir  us;  never 
before  or  since  has  carving  pictured  animals  so  successfully.  The  panels 
monotonously  repeat  scenes  of  war  and  the  hunt;  but  the  eye  never  tires 
of  their  vigor  of  action,  their  flow  of  motion,  and  their  simple  directness 

CHAP.  X)  ASSYRIA  279 

of  line.  It  is  as  if  the  artist,  forbidden  to  portray  his  masters  realistically 
or  individually,  had  given  all  his  lore  and  skill  to  the  animals;  he  repre- 
sents them  in  a  profusion  of  species— lions,  horses,  asses,  goats,  dogs,  deer, 
birds,  grasshoppers— and  in  every  attitude  except  rest;  too  often  he  shows 
them  in  the  agony  of  death;  but  even  then  they  are  the  center  and  life  of 
his  picture  and  his  art.  The  majestic  horses  of  Sargon  II  on  the  reliefs 
at  Khorsabad;80  the  wounded  lioness  from  Sennacherib's  palace  at  Nine- 
veh;61 the  dying  lion  in  alabaster  from  the  palace  of  Ashurbanipal;8*  the 
lion-hunts  of  Ashurnasirpal  II  and  Ashurbanipal;"  the  resting  lioness,*4  and 
the  lion  released  from  a  trap;"  the  fragment  in  which  a  lion  and  his  mate 
bask  in  the  shade  of  the  trees80— these  are  among  the  world's  choicest  mas- 
terpieces in  this  form  of  art.  The  representation  of  natural  objects  in  the 
reliefs  is  stylized  and  crude;  the  forms  are  heavy,  the  outlines  are  hard, 
the  muscles  are  exaggerated;  and  there  is  no  other  attempt  at  perspective 
than  the  placing  of  the  distant  in  the  upper  half  of  the  picture,  on  the  same 
scale  as  the  foreground  presented  below.  Gradually,  however,  the  guild 
of  sculptors  under  Sennacherib  learned  to  offset  these  defects  with  a 
boldly  realistic  portrayal,  a  technical  finish,  and  above  all  a  vivid  percep- 
tion of  action,  which,  in  the  field  of  animal  sculpture,  have  never  been 
surpassed.  Bas-relief  was  to  the  Assyrian  what  sculpture  was  to  the 
Greek,  or  painting  to  the  Italians  of  the  Renaissance— a  favorite  art 
uniquely  expressing  the  national  ideal  of  form  and  character. 

We  cannot  say  as  much  for  Assyrian  sculpture.  The  carvers  of 
Nineveh  and  Kalakh  seem  to  have  preferred  relief  to  work  in  the 
round;  very  little  full  sculpture  has  come  down  to  us  from  the  ruins,  and 
none  of  it  is  of  a  high  order.  The  animals  are  full  of  power  and  majesty, 
as  if  conscious  of  not  only  physical  but  moral  superiority  to  man— like 
the  bulls  that  guarded  the  gateway  at  Khorsabad;87  the  human  or  divine 
figures  are  primitively  coarse  and  heavy,  adorned  but  undistinguished, 
erect  but  dead.  An  exception  might  be  made  for  the  massive  statue  of 
Ashurnasirpal  II  now  in  the  British  Museum;  through  all  its  heavy  lines 
one  sees  a  man  every  inch  a  king:  royal  sceptre  firmly  grasped,  thick  lips 
set  with  determination,  eyes  cruel  and  alert,  a  bull-like  neck  boding  short 
shrift  for  enemies  and  falsifiers  of  tax-reports,  and  two  gigantic  feet  full 
poised  on  the  back  of  the  world. 

We  must  not  take  too  seriously  our  judgments  of  this  sculpture;  very 
likely  the  Assyrians  idolized  knotted  muscles  and  short  necks,  and  would 
have  looked  with  martial  scorn  upon  our  almost  feminine  slenderness,  or 


the  smooth,  voluptuous  grace  of  Praxiteles'  Hermes  and  the  Apollo  Bel- 
vedere. As  for  Assyrian  architecture,  how  can  we  estimate  its  excellence 
when  nothing  remains  of  it  but  ruins  almost  level  with  the  sand,  and 
serving  chiefly  as  a  hook  upon  which  brave  archeologists  may  hang  their 
imaginative  "restorations"?  Like  Babylonian  and  recent  American  archi- 
tecture, the  Assyrian  aimed  not  at  beauty  but  at  grandeur,  and  sought  it 
by  mass  design.  Following  the  traditions  of  Mesopotamian  art,  Assyrian 
architecture  adopted  brick  as  its  basic  material,  but  went  its  own  way  by 
facing  it  more  lavishly  with  stone.  It  inherited  the  arch  and  the  vault  from 
the  south,  developed  them,  and  made  some  experiments  in  columns  which 
led  the  way  to  the  caryatids  and  the  voluted  "Ionic"  capitals  of  the  Per- 
sians and  the  Greeks."  The  palaces  squatted  over  great  areas  of  ground, 
and  were  wisely  limited  to  two  or  three  stories  in  height;60  ordinarily  they 
were  designed  as  a  series  of  halls  and  chambers  enclosing  a  quiet  and 
shaded  court.  The  portals  of  the  royal  residences  were  guarded  with 
monstrous  stone  animals,  the  entrance  hall  was  lined  with  historical  re- 
liefs and  statuary,  the  floors  were  paved  with  alabaster  slabs,  the  walls 
were  hung  with  costly  tapestries,  or  paneled  with  precious  woods,  and 
bordered  with  elegant  mouldings;  the  roofs  were  reinforced  with  mas- 
ive  beams,  sometimes  covered  with  leaf  of  silver  or  gold,  and  the  ceilings 
were  often  painted  with  representations  of  natural  scenery.70 

The  six  mightiest  warriors  of  Assyria  were  also  its  greatest  builders. 
Tiglath-Pileser  I  rebuilt  in  stone  the  temples  of  Ashur,  and  left  word 
about  one  of  them  that  he  had  "made  its  interior  brilliant  like  the  vault 
of  heaven,  decorated  its  walls  like  the  splendor  of  the  rising  stars,  and 
made  it  superb  with  shining  brightness."71  The  later  emperors  gave  gen- 
erously to  the  temples,  but,  like  Solomon,  they  preferred  their  palaces. 
Ashurnasirpal  II  built  at  Kalakh  an  immense  edifice  of  stone-faced  brick, 
ornamented  with  reliefs  praising  piety  and  war.  Nearby,  at  Balawat,  Ras- 
sam  found  the  ruins  of  another  structure,  from  which  he  rescued  two 
bronze  gates  of  magnificent  workmanship.™  Sargon  II  commemorated 
himself  by  raising  a  spacious  palace  at  Dur-Sharrukin  (i.e.,  Fort  Sargon, 
on  the  site  of  the  modern  Khorsabad) ;  its  gateway  was  flanked  by  winged 
bulls,  its  walls  were  decorated  with  reliefs  and  shining  tiles,  its  vast  rooms 
were  equipped  with  delicately  carved  furniture,  and  were  adorned  with 
imposing  statuary.  From  every  victory  Sargon  brought  more  slaves  to 
work  on  this  construction,  and  more  marble,  lapis  lazuli,  bronze,  silver  and 
gold  to  beautify  it.  Around  it  he  set  a  group  of  temples,  and  in  the  rear 


he  offered  to  the  god  a  ziggurat  of  seven  stories,  topped  with  silver  and 
gold.  Sennacherib  raised  at  Nineveh  a  royal  mansion  called  "The  Incom- 
parable," surpassing  in  size  all  other  palaces  of  antiquity;78  its  walls  and 
floors  sparkled  with  precious  metals,  woods,  and  stones;  its  tiles  vied  in 
their  brilliance  with  the  luminaries  of  day  and  night;  the  metal-workers 
cast  for  it  gigantic  lions  and  oxen  of  copper,  and  the  sculptors  carved  for 
it  winged  bulls  of  limestone  and  alabaster,  and  lined  its  walls  with  pas- 
toral symphonies  in  bas-relief.  Esarhaddon  continued  the  rebuilding  and 
enlargement  of  Nineveh,  and  excelled  all  his  predecessors  in  the  grandeur 
of  his  edifices  and  the  luxuriousncss  of  their  equipment;  a  dozen  provinces 
provided  him  with  materials  and  men;  new  ideas  for  columns  and  deco- 
rations came  to  him  during  his  sojourn  in  Egypt;  and  when  at  last  his 
palaces  and  temples  were  complete  they  were  filled  with  the  artistic 
booty  and  conceptions  of  the  whole  Near  Eastern  world.74 

The  worst  commentary  on  Assyrian  architecture  lies  in  the  fact  that 
within  sixty  years  after  Esarhaddon  had  finished  his  palace  it  was  crum- 
bling into  ruins.75  Ashurbanipal  tells  us  how  he  rebuilt  it;  as  we  read 
his  inscription  the  centuries  fade,  and  we  see  dimly  into  the  heart  of  the 

At  that  time  the  harem,  the  resting-place  of  the  palace  .  .  . 
which  Sennacherib,  my  grandfather,  had  built  for  his  royal  dwell- 
ing, had  become  old  with  joy  and  gladness,  and  its  walls  had  fallen. 
I,  Ashurbanipal,  the  Great  King,  the  mighty  King,  the  King  of  the 
World,  the  King  of  Assyria,  .  .  .  because  I  had  grown  up  in  that 
harem,  and  Ashur,  Sin,  Shamash,  Ramman,  Bel,  Nabu,  Ishtar,  .  .  . 
Ninib,  Nergal  and  Nusku  had  preserved  me  therein  as  crown  prince, 
and  had  extended  their  good  protection  and  shelter  of  prosperity 
over  me,  .  .  .  and  had  constantly  sent  me  joyful  tidings  therein  of 
victory  over  my  enemies;  and  because  my  dreams  on  my  bed  at 
night  were  pleasant,  and  in  the  morning  my  fancies  were  bright, 
...  I  tore  down  its  ruins;  in  order  to  extend  its  area  I  tore  it  all 
down.  I  erected  a  building  the  site  of  whose  structure  was  fifty 
tibki  in  extent.  I  raised  a  terrace;  but  I  was  afraid  before  the  shrines 
of  the  great  gods  my  lords,  and  did  not  raise  that  structure  very 
high.  In  a  good  month,  on  a  favorable  day,  I  put  in  its  foundations 
upon  that  terrace,  and  laid  its  brickwork.  I  emptied  wine  of  ses- 
ame and  wine  of  grapes  upon  its  cellar,  and  poured  them  also 
upon  its  earthen  wall.  In  order  to  build  that  harem  the  people  of 


my  land  hauled  its  bricks  there  in  wagons  of  Elam  which  I  had  car- 
ried away  as  spoil  by  the  command  of  the  gods.  I  made  the  kings 
of  Arabia  who  had  violated  their  treaty  with  me,  and  whom  I  had 
captured  alive  in  battle  with  my  own  hands,  carry  baskets  and 
(wear)  workmen's  caps  in  order  to  build  that  harem.  .  .  .  They 
spent  their  days  in  moulding  its  bricks  and  performing  forced 
service  for  it  to  the  playing  of  music.  With  joy  and  rejoicing  I 
built  it  from  its  foundations  to  its  roof.  I  made  more  room  in  it 
than  before,  and  made  the  work  upon  it  splendid.  I  laid  upon  it 
long  beams  of  cedar,  which  grew  upon  Sirara  and  Lebanon.  I 
covered  doors  of  liaru-wood,  whose  odor  is  pleasant,  with  a  sheath 
of  copper,  and  hung  them  in  its  doorways.  ...  I  planted  around 
it  a  grove  of  all  kinds  of  trees,  and  .  .  .  fruits  of  every  kind.  I 
finished  the  work  of  its  construction,  offered  splendid  sacrifices 
to  the  gods  my  lords,  dedicated  it  with  joy  and  rejoicing,  and 
entered  therein  under  a  splendid  canopy.76 


The  last  days  of  a  king  —  Sources  of  Assyrian  decay  —  The  fall 

of  Nineveh 

Nevertheless  the  "Great  King,  the  mighty  King,  the  King  of  the 
World,  the  King  of  Assyria"  complained  in  his  old  age  of  the  misfortunes 
that  had  come  to  his  lot.  The  last  tablet  bequeathed  us  by  his  wedge 
raises  again  the  questions  of  Ecclesiastes  and  Job: 

I  did  well  unto  god  and  man,  to  dead  and  living.  Why  have  sick- 
ness and  misery  befallen  me?  I  cannot  do  away  with  the  strife  in 
my  country  and  the  dissensions  in  my  family;  disturbing  scandals 
oppress  me  always.  Illness  of  mind  and  flesh  bow  me  down;  with 
cries  of  woe  I  bring  my  days  to  an  end.  On  the  day  of  the  city 
god,  the  day  of  the  festival,  I  am  wretched;  death  is  seizing  hold 
upon  me,  and  bears  me  down.  With  lamentation  and  mourning  I 
wail  day  and  night,  I  groan,  "O  God!  grant  even  to  one  who  is 
impious  that  he  may  see  thy  light!"77* 

*  Diodorus-how  reliably  we  cannot  say— pictures  the  King  as  rioting  away  his  years  in 
feminine  comforts  and  gcndcrlcss  immorality,  and  credits  him  with  composing  his  own 
reckless  epitaph: 

Knowing  full  well  that  thou  wcrt  mortal  born, 

Thy  heart  lift  up,  take  thy  delight  in  feasts; 

CHAP.  X)  ASSYRIA  283 

We  do  not  know  how  Ashurbanipal  died;  the  story  dramatized  by 
Byron— that  he  set  fire  to  his  own  palace  and  perished  in  the  flames— rests 
on  the  authority  of  the  marvel-loving  Ctesias,"  and  may  be  merely  legend. 
His  death  was  in  any  case  a  symbol  and  an  omen;  soon  Assyria  too  was  to 
die,  and  from  causes  of  which  Ashurbanipal  had  been  a  part.  For  the 
economic  vitality  of  Assyria  had  been  derived  too  rashly  from  abroad;  it 
depended  upon  profitable  conquests  bringing  in  riches  and  trade;  at  any 
moment  it  could  be  ended  with  a  decisive  defeat.  Gradually  the  qualities 
of  body  and  character  that  had  helped  to  make  the  Assyrian  armies  in- 
vincible were  weakened  by  the  very  victories  that  they  won;  in  each  vic- 
tory it  was  the  strongest  and  bravest  who  died,  while  the  infirm  and  cau- 
tious survived  to  multiply  their  kind;  it  was  a  dysgenic  process  that  per- 
haps made  for  civilization  by  weeding  out  the  more  brutal  types,  but 
undermined  the  biological  basis  upon  which  Assyria  had  risen  to  power. 
The  extent  of  her  conquests  had  helped  to  weaken  her;  not  only  had 
they  depopulated  her  fields  to  feed  insatiate  Mars,  but  they  had  brought 
into  Assyria,  as  captives,  millions  of  destitute  aliens  who  bred  with  the 
fertility  of  the  hopeless,  destroyed  all  national  unity  of  character  and 
blood,  and  became  by  their  growing  numbers  a  hostile  and  disintegrating 
force  in  the  very  midst  of  the  conquerors.  More  and  more  the  army 
itself  was  filled  by  these  men  of  other  lands,  while  semi-barbarous  maraud- 
ers harassed  every  border,  and  exhausted  the  resources  of  the  country  in 
an  endless  defense  of  its  unnatural  frontiers. 

Ashurbanipal  died  in  626  B.C.  Fourteen  years  later  an  army  of  Baby- 
lonians under  Nabopolassar  united  with  an  army  of  Medes  under  Cyax- 
ares  and  a  horde  of  Scythians  from  the  Caucasus,  and  with  amazing  ease 
and  swiftness  captured  the  citadels  of  the  north.  Nineveh  was  laid  waste 
as  ruthlessly  and  completely  as  her  kings  had  once  ravaged  Susa  and 
Babylon;  the  city  was  put  to  the  torch,  the  population  was  slaughtered  or 
enslaved,  and  the  palace  so  recently  built  by  Ashurbanipal  was  sacked  and 
destroyed.  At  one  blow  Assyria  disappeared  from  history.  Nothing 

When  dead  no  pleasure  more  is  thine.  Thus  I, 

Who  once  o'er  mighty  Ninus  ruled,  am  naught 

But  dust.  Yet  these  are  mine  which  gave  me  joy 

In  life— the  food  I  ate,  my  wantonness, 

And  love's  delights.  But  all  those  other  things 

Men  deem  felicities  are  left  behind." 

Perhaps  there  is  no  inconsistency  between  this  mood  and  that  pictured  in  the  text;  the 
one  may  have  been  the  medical  preliminary  to  the  other. 


remained  of  her  except  certain  tactics  and  weapons  of  war,  certain  voluted 
capitals  of  semi-"Ionic"  columns,  and  certain  methods  of  provincial  ad- 
ministration that  passed  down  to  Persia,  Macedon  and  Rome.  The  Near 
East  remembered  her  for  a  while  as  a  merciless  unifier  of  a  dozen  lesser 
states;  and  the  Jews  recalled  Nineveh  vengefully  as  "the  bloody  city, 
full  of  lies  and  robbery."80  In  a  little  while  all  but  the  mightiest  of  the 
Great  Kings  were  forgotten,  and  all  their  royal  palaces  were  in  ruins 
under  the  drifting  sands.  Two  hundred  years  after  its  capture,  Xeno- 
phon's  Ten  Thousand  marched  over  the  mounds  that  had  been  Nineveh, 
and  never  suspected  that  these  were  the  site  of  the  ancient  metropolis  that 
had  ruled  half  the  world.  Not  a  stone  remained  visible  of  all  the  temples 
with  which  Assyria's  pious  warriors  had  sought  to  beautify  their  greatest 
capital.  Even  Ashur,  the  everlasting  god,  was  dead. 


A  Motley  of  Nations 


The  ethnic  scene— Mitannians— Hittites— Armenians— Scythians- 
Phrygians  —  The  Divine  Mother  —  Lydians  —  Crcssus  —  Coin- 
age—Croesus, Solon  and  Cyrus 

TO  a  distant  and  yet  discerning  eye  the  Near  East,  in  the  days  of 
Nebuchadrezzar,  would  have  seemed  like  an  ocean  in  which  vast 
swarms  of  human  beings  moved  about  in  turmoil,  forming  and  dissolving 
groups,  enslaving  and  being  enslaved,  eating  and  being  eaten,  killing  and 
getting  killed,  endlessly.  Behind  and  around  the  great  empires— Egypt, 
Babylonia,  Assyria  and  Persia— flowered  this  medley  of  half  nomad,  half 
settled  tribes:  Cimmerians,  Cilicians,  Cappadocians,  Bithynians,  Ashkanians, 
Mysians,  Maeonians,  Carians,  Lycians,  Pamphylians,  Pisidians,  Lycaonians, 
Philistines,  Amorites,  Canaanitcs,  Edomites,  Ammonites,  Moabites  and  a 
hundred  other  peoples  each  of  which  felt  itself  the  center  of  geography 
and  history,  and  would  have  marveled  at  the  ignorant  prejudice  of  an 
historian  who  would  reduce  them  to  a  paragraph.  Thoughont  the  history 
of  the  Near  East  such  nomads  were  a  peril  to  the  more  settled  kingdoms 
which  they  almost  surrounded;  periodically  droughts  would  fling  them 
upon  these  richer  regions,  necessitating  frequent  wars,  and  perpetual 
readiness  for  war.1  Usually  the  nomad  tribe  survived  the  settled  kingdom, 
and  overran  it  in  the  end.  The  world  is  dotted  with  areas  where  once 
civilization  flourished,  and  where  nomads  roam  again. 

In  this  seething  ethnic  sea  certain  minor  states  took  shape,  which,  even 
if  only  as  conductors,  contributed  their  mite  to  the  heritage  of  the  race. 
The  Mitannians  interest  us  not  as  the  early  antagonists  of  Egypt  in  the 
Near  East,  but  as  one  of  the  first  Indo-European  peoples  known  to  us  in 
Asia,  and  as  the  worshipers  of  gods— Mithra,  Indra  and  Varuna— whose  pas- 



sage  to  Persia  and  India  helps  us  to  trace  the  movements  of  what  was  once 
so  conveniently  called  the  "Aryan"  race.* 

The  Hittites  were  among  the  most  powerful  and  civilized  of  the  early 
Indo-European  peoples.  Apparently  they  had  come  down  across  the  Bos- 
phorus,  the  Hellespont,  the  ^Egean  or  the  Caucasus,  and  had  established 
themselves  as  a  ruling  military  caste  over  the  indigenous  agriculturists  of 
that  mountainous  peninsula,  south  of  the  Black  Sea,  which  we  know  as  Asia 
Minor.  Towards  1800  B.C.  we  find  them  settled  near  the  sources  of  the 
Tigris  and  the  Euphrates;  thence  they  spread  their  arms  and  influence  into 
Syria,  and  gave  mighty  Egypt  some  indignant  concern.  We  have  seen  how 
Rameses  II  was  forced  to  make  peace  with  them,  and  to  acknowledge  the 
Hittite  king  as  his  equal.  At  Boghaz  Keuit  they  made  their  capital  and 
centered  their  civilization:  first  on  the  iron  which  they  mined  in  the  moun- 
tains bordering  on  Armenia,  then  on  a  code  of  laws  much  influenced  by 
Hammurabi's,  and  finally  on  a  crude  esthetic  sense  which  drove  them  to 
carve  vast  and  awkward  figures  in  the  round,  or  upon  the  living  rock.J 
Their  language,  recently  deciphered  by  Hronzny  from  the  ten  thousand  clay 
tablets  found  at  Boghaz  Keui  by  Hugo  Winckler,  was  largely  of  Indo-Euro- 
pean affinity;  its  declensional  and  conjugational  forms  closely  resembled 
those  of  Latin  and  Greek,  and  some  of  its  simpler  words  are  visibly  akin  to 
English.  §  The  Hittites  wrote  a  pictographic  script  in  their  own  queer 
way— one  line  from  left  to  right,  the  next  from  right  to  left,  and  so  forth 
alternately.  They  learned  cuneiform  from  the  Babylonians,  taught  Crete 

*  The  word  Aryan  first  appears  in  the  Harri,  one  of  the  tribes  of  Mitanni.  In  general 
it  was  the  self-given  appellation  of  peoples  living  near,  or  coming  from,  the  shores  of  the 
Caspian  Sea.  The  term  is  properly  applied  today  chiefly  to  the  Mitannians,  Hittites, 
Mcdes,  Persians,  and  Vedic  Hindus— i.e.,  only  to  the  eastern  branch  of  the  Indo-European 
peoples,  whose  western  branch  populated  Europe.* 

tEast  of  the  Halys  River.  Nearby,  across  the  river,  is  Angora,  capital  of  Turkey,  and 
lineal  descendant  of  Ancyra,  the  ancient  metropolis  of  Phrygia.  We  may  be  helped  to  a 
cultural  perspective  by  realizing  that  the  Turks,  whom  we  call  "terrible,"  note  with  pride 
the  antiquity  of  their  capital,  and  mourn  the  domination  of  Europe  by  barbaric  infidels. 
Every  point  is  the  center  of  the  world. 

t  Baron  von  Oppenheim  unearthed  at  Tell  Halaf  and  elsewhere  many  relics  of  Hittite 
art,  which  he  has  collected  into  his  own  museum,  an  abandoned  factory  in  Berlin.  Most 
of  these  remains  are  dated  by  their  finder  about  1200  B.C.;  some  of  them  he  attributes  pre- 
cariously to  the  fourth  millennium  B.C.  The  collection  includes  a  group  of  lions  crudely 
but  powerfully  carved  in  stone,  a  bull  in  fine  black  stone,  and  figures  of  the  Hittite  triad 
of  gods—the  Sun-god,  the  Weather-god,  and  Hepat,  the  Hittite  Ishtar.  One  of  the  most 
impressive  of  the  figures  is  an  ungainly  Sphinx,  before  which  is  a  stone  vessel  intended 
for  offerings. 

§Cf.,  e.g.,  vadar,  water;  ezza,  eat;  ugay  I  (Latin  ego);  tug,  thee;  vesh,  we;  mu,  me; 
kuish,  who  (Lat.  quis)\  quit,  what  (Lat.  quid),  etc.' 

CHAP.  Xl)  A    MOTLEY    OF    NATIONS  267 

the  use  of  the  clay  tablet  for  writing,  and  seem  to  have  mingled  with  the 
ancient  Hebrews  intimately  enough  to  have  given  them  their  sharply) 
aquiline  nose,  so  that  this  Hebraic  feature  must  now  be  considered  strictly  l 
"Aryan."*  Some  of  the  surviving  tablets  are  vocabularies  giving  Sumerian, 
Babylonian  and  Hittite  equivalents;  others  are  administrative  enactments  re- 
vealing a  close-knit  military  and  monarchical  state;  others  contain  two  hun- 
dred fragments  of  a  code  of  laws,  including  price-regulations  for  commodi- 
ties." The  Hittites  disappeared  from  history  almost  as  mysteriously  as  they 
entered  it;  one  after  another  their  capitals  decayed— perhaps  because  their 
great  advantage,  iron,  became  equally  accessible  to  their  competitors.  The 
last  of  these  capitals,  Carchemish,  fell  before  the  Assyrians  in  717  B.C. 

Just  north  of  Assyria  was  a  comparatively  stable  nation,  known  to  the 
Assyrians  as  Urartu,  to  the  Hebrews  as  Ararat,  and  to  later  times  as  Ar- 
menia. For  many  centuries,  beginning  before  the  dawn  of  recorded  history 
and  continuing  till  the  establishment  of  Persian  rule  over  all  of  western 
Asia,  the  Armenians  maintained  their  independent  government,  their  char- 
acteristic customs  and  arts.  Under  their  greatest  king,  Argistis  II  (ca.  708 
B.C.),  they  grew  rich  by  mining  iron  and  selling  it  to  Asia  and  Greece;  they 
achieved  a  high  level  of  prosperity  and  comfort,  of  culture  and  manners; 
they  built  great  edifices  of  stone,  and  made  excellent  vases  and  statuettes. 
They  lost  their  wealth  in  costly  wars  of  offense  and  defense  against  Assyria, 
and  passed  under  Persian  domination  in  the  days  of  the  all-conquering  Cyrus. 

Still  farther  north,  along  the  shores  of  the  Black  Sea,  wandered  the 
Scythians,  a  horde  of  warriors  half  Mongol  and  half  European,  ferocious 
bearded  giants  who  lived  in  wagons,  kept  their  women  in  purdah  seclusion,8 
rode  bareback  on  wild  horses,  fought  to  live  and  lived  to  fight,  drank  the 
blood  of  their  enemies  and  used  the  scalps  as  napkins,7  weakened  Assyria 
with  repeated  raids,  swept  through  western  Asia  (ca.  630-610  B.C.),  de- 
stroying and  killing  everything  and  everyone  in  their  path,  advanced  to 
the  very  cities  of  the  Egyptian  Delta,  were  suddenly  decimated  by  a  mys- 
terious disease,  and  were  finally  overcome  by  the  Medes  and  driven  back 
to  their  northern  haunts.8*  We  catch  from  such  a  story  another  glimpse  of 
the  barbaric  hinterland  that  hedged  in  every  ancient  state. 

*  Hippocrates  tells  us  that  "their  women,  so  long  as  they  are  virgins,  ride,  shoot,  throw 
the  javelin  while  mounted,  and  fight  with  their  enemies.  They  do  not  lay  aside  their 
virginity  until  they  have  killed  three  of  their  enemies.  ...  A  woman  who  takes  to  her- 
self a  husband  no  longer  rides,  unless  she  is  compelled  to  do  so  by  a  general  ex- 
pedition. They  have  no  right  breast;  for  while  they  are  yet  babies  their  mothers 
make  red-hot  a  bronze  instrument  constructed  for  this  very  purpose  and  apply  it  to 
the  right  breast  and  cauterize  it,  so  that  its  growth  is  arrested,  and  all  its  strength  and 
bulk  are  diverted  to  the  right  shoulder  and  right  arm."9 


Towards  the  end  of  the  ninth  century  B.C.  a  new  power  arose  in  Asia 
Minor,  inheriting  the  remains  of  the  Hittite  civilization,  and  serving  as  a 
cultural  bridge  to  Lydia  and  Greece.  The  legend  by  which  the  Phrygians 
tried  to  explain  for  curious  historians  the  foundation  of  their  kingdom 
was  symbolical  of  the  rise  and  fall  of  nations.  Their  first  king,  Gordios, 
was  a  simple  peasant  whose  sole  inheritance  had  been  a  pair  of  oxen;* 
their  next  king,  his  son  Midas,  was  a  spendthrift  who  weakened  the  state 
by  that  greed  and  extravagance  which  posterity  represented  through  the 
legend  of  his  plea  to  the  gods  that  he  might  turn  anything  to  gold  by 
touching  it.  The  plea  was  so  well  heard  that  everything  Midas  touched 
turned  to  gold,  even  the  food  that  he  put  to  his  lips;  he  was  on  the  verge 
of  starvation  when  the  gods  allowed  him  to  cleanse  himself  of  the  curse 
by  bathing  in  the  river  Pactolus— which  has  given  up  grains  of  gold 
ever  since. 

The  Phrygians  made  their  way  into  Asia  from  Europe,  built  a  capital 
at  Ancyra,  and  for  a  time  contended  with  Assyria  and  Egypt  for  mastery 
of  the  Near  East.  They  adopted  a  native  mother-goddess,  Ma,  rechristened 
her  Cybele  from  the  mountains  (kybcla)  in  which  she  dwelt,  and  wor- 
shiped her  as  the  great  spirit  of  the  untilled  earth,  the  personification  of 
all  the  reproductive  energies  of  nature.  They  took  over  from  the  aborig- 
ines the  custom  of  serving  the  goddess  through  sacred  prostitution,  and 
accepted  into  their  mythical  lore  the  story  of  how  Cybele  had  fallen 
in  love  with  the  young  god  Atys,t  and  had  compelled  him  to  emasculate 
himself  in  her  honor;  hence  the  priests  of  the  Great  Mother  sacrificed 
their  manhood  to  her  upon  entering  the  service  of  her  temples.11  These 
barbarous  legends  fascinated  the  imagination  of  the  Greeks,  and  entered 
profoundly  into  their  mythology  and  their  literature.  The  Romans  offi- 
cially adopted  Cybele  into  their  religion,  and  some  of  the  orgiastic  rites 
that  marked  the  Roman  carnivals  were  derived  from  the  wild  rituals  with 
which  the  Phrygians  annually  celebrated  the  death  and  resurrection  of  the 
handsome  Atys.1* 

*The  oracle  of  Zeus  had  commanded  the  Phrygians  to  choose  as  king  the  first  man 
who  rode  up  to  the  temple  in  a  wagon;  hence  the  selection  of  Gordios.  The  new  king 
dedicated  his  car  to  the  god;  and  a  new  oracle  predicted  that  the  man  who  should  suc- 
ceed in  untying  the  intricate  bark  knot  that  bound  the  yoke  of  the  wagon  to  the  pole 
would  rule  over  all  Asia.  Alexander,  story  goes,  cut  the  "Gordian  knot"  with  a  blow  of 
his  sword. 

t  Atys,  we  arc  informed,  was  miraculously  born  of  the  virgin-goddess  Nana,  who  con- 
ceived him  by  placing  a  pomegranate  between  her  breasts.10 

CHAP.  Xl)  A    MOTLEY    OF    NATIONS  289 

The  ascendency  of  Phrygia  in  Asia  Minor  was  ended  with  the  rise 
of  the  new  kingdom  of  Lydia.  King  Gyges  established  it  with  its  capital 
at  Sardis;  Alyattes,  in  a  long  reign  of  forty-nine  years,  raised  it  to  pros- 
perity and  power;  Croesus  (570-546  B.C.)  inherited  and  enjoyed  it,  ex- 
panded it  by  conquest  to  include  nearly  all  of  Asia  Minor,  and  then  sur- 
rendered it  to  Persia.  By  generous  bribes  to  local  politicians  he  brought 
one  after  another  of  the  petty  states  that  surrounded  him  into  subjection 
to  Lydia,  and  by  pious  and  unprecedented  hecatombs  to  local  deities 
he  placated  these  subject  peoples  and  persuaded  them  that  he  was  the 
darling  of  their  gods.  Croesus  further  distinguished  himself  by  issuing 
gold  and  silver  coins  of  admirable  design,  minted  and  guaranteed  at  their 
face  value  by  the  state;  and  though  these  were  not,  as  long  supposed,  the 
first  official  coins  in  history,  much  less  the  invention  of  coinage,*  never- 
theless they  set  an  example  that  stimulated  trade  throughout  the  Mediter- 
ranean world.  Men  had  for  many  centuries  used  various  metals  as  stand- 
ards of  value  and  exchange;  but  these,  whether  copper,  bronze,  iron, 
silver  or  gold,  had  in  most  countries  been  measured  by  weight  or  other 
tests  at  each  transaction.  It  was  no  small  improvement  that  replaced  such 
cumbersome  tokens  with  a  national  currency;  by  accelerating  the  passage 
of  goods  from  those  that  could  best  produce  them  to  those  that  most 
effectively  demanded  them  it  added  to  the  wealth  of  the  world,  and  pre- 
pared for  mercantile  civilizations  like  those  of  Ionia  and  Greece,  in  which 
the  proceeds  of  commerce  were  to  finance  the  achievements  of  literature 
and  art. 

Of  Lydian  literature  nothing  remains;  nor  docs  any  specimen  survive 
of  the  preciously  wrought  vases  of  gold,  iron  and  silver  that  Croesus 
offered  to  the  conquered  gods.  The  vases  found  in  Lydian  tombs,  and 
now  housed  in  the  Louvre,  show  how  the  artistic  leadership  of  Egypt 
and  Babylonia  was  yielding,  in  the  Lydia  of  Croesus'  day,  to  the  growing 
influence  of  Greece;  their  delicacy  of  execution  rivals  their  fidelity  to 
nature.  When  Herodotus  visited  Lydia  he  found  its  customs  almost  in- 
distinguishable from  those  of  his  fellow-Greeks;  all  that  remained  to  sep- 
arate them,  he  tells  us,  was  the  way  in  which  the  daughters  of  the  com- 
mon people  earned  their  dowries—by  prostitution.18 

The  same  great  gossip  is  our  chief  authority  for  the  dramatic  story 
of  Croesus's  fall.  Herodotus  recounts  how  Croesus  displayed  his  riches 

*  Older  coins  have  been  found  at  Mohenjo-daro,  in  India  (2900  B.C.);  and  we  have  seen 
how  Sennacherib  (ca.  700  B.C.)  minced  half-shekel  pieces. 


to  Solon,  and  then  asked  him  whom  he  considered  the  happiest  of  men. 
Solon,  after  naming  three  individuals  who  were  all  dead,  refused  to  call 
Croesus  happy,  on  the  ground  that  there  was  no  telling  what  misfortunes 
the  morrow  would  bring  him.  Croesus  dismissed  the  great  legislator  as  a 
fool,  turned  his  hand  to  plotting  against  Persia,  and  suddenly  found  the 
hosts  of  Cyrus  at  his  gates.  According  to  the  same  historian  the  Persians 
won  through  the  superior  stench  of  their  camels,  which  the  horses  of 
the  Lydian  cavalry  could  not  bear;  the  horses  fled,  the  Lydians  were 
routed,  and  Sardis  fell.  Croesus,  according  to  ancient  tradition,  prepared 
a  great  funeral  pyre,  took  his  place  on  it  with  his  wives,  his  daughters, 
and  the  noblest  young  men  among  the  surviving  citizens,  and  ordered  his 
eunuchs  to  burn  himself  and  them  to  death.  In  his  last  moments  he  re- 
membered the  words  of  Solon,  mourned  his  own  blindness,  and  re- 
proached the  gods  who  had  taken  all -his  hecatombs  and  paid  him  with 
destruction.  Cyrus,  if  we  may  follow  Herodotus,"  took  pity  on  him, 
ordered  the  flames  to  be  extinguished,  carried  Croesus  with  him  to  Persia, 
and  made  him  one  of  his  most  trusted  counsellors. 


The  antiquity  of  the  Arabs— Phoenicians— Their  world  trade— 

Their  circumnavigation  of  Africa  —  Colonies  —  Tyre  and 

Sidon  —  Deities  —  The  dissemination  of  the  alphabet  — 

Syria  —  Astarte  —  The  death  and  resurrection  of 

Adoni—The  sacrifice  of  children 

11  » 

If  we  attempt  to  mitigate  the  confusion  of  tongues  in  the  Near  East 
by  distinguishing  the  northern  peoples  of  the  region  as  mostly  Indo- 
European,  and  the  central  and  southern  peoples,  from  Assyria  to  Arabia, 
as  Semitic,*  we  shall  have  to  remember  that  reality  is  never  so  clear-cut 
in  its  differences  as  the  rubrics  under  which  we  dismember  it  for  neat 
handling.  The  Near  East  was  divided  by  mountains  and  deserts  into 
localities  naturally  isolated  and  therefore  naturally  diverse  in  language  and 
traditions;  but  not  only  did  trade  tend  to  assimilate  language,  customs  and 
arts  along  its  main  routes  (as,  for  example,  along  the  great  rivers  from 
Nineveh  and  Carchemish  to  the  Persian  Gulf),  but  the  migrations  and 
imperial  deportations  of  vast  communities  so  mingled  stocks  and  speech 

*  The  term  Semite  is  derived  from  Shem,  legendary  son  of  Noah,  on  the  theory  that 
Shem  was  the  ancestor  of  all  the  Semitic  peoples. 

CHAP.Xl)  A    MOTLEY    OF    NATIONS  291 

that  a  certain  homogeneity  of  culture  accompanied  the  heterogeneity  of 
blood.  By  "Indo-European,"  then,  we  shall  mean  predominantly  Indo- 
European;  by  "Semitic"  we  shall  mean  predominantly  Semitic:  no  strain 
was  unmixed,  no  culture  was  left  uninfluenced  by  its  neighbors  or  its 
enemies.  We  are  to  vision  the  vast  area  as  a  scene  of  ethnic  diversity  and 
flux,  in  which  now  the  Indo-European,  now  the  Semitic,  stock  for  a 
time  prevailed,  but  only  to  take  on  the  general  cultural  character  of  the 
whole.  Hammurabi  and  Darius  I  were  separated  by  differences  of  blood 
and  religion,  and  by  almost  as  many  centuries  as  those  that  divide  us  from 
Christ;  nevertheless,  when  we  examine  the  two  great  kings  we  perceive 
that  they  are  essentially  and  profoundly  akin. 

The  fount  and  breeding-place  of  the  Semites  was  Arabia.  Out  of  that 
arid  region,  where  the  "man-plant"  grows  so  vigorously  and  hardly  any 
other  plant  will  grow  at  all,  came,  in  a  succession  of  migrations,  wave 
after  wave  of  sturdy,  reckless  stoics  no  longer  supportable  by  desert  and 
oases,  and  bound  to  conquer  for  themselves  a  place  in  the  shade.  Those 
who  remained  behind  created  the  civilization  of  Arabia  and  the  Bedouin: 
the  patriarchal  family,  the  stern  morality  of  obedience,  the  fatalism  of 
a  hard  environment,  and  the  ignorant  courage  to  kill  their  own  daughters 
as  offerings  to  the  gods.  Nevertheless  they  did  not  take  religion  very 
much  to  heart  till  Mohammed  came,  and  they  neglected  the  arts  and  re- 
finements of  life  as  effeminate  devices  for  degenerate  men.  For  a  time  they 
controlled  the  trade  with  the  further  East:  their  ports  at  Cannch  and  Aden 
were  heaped  with  the  riches  of  the  Indies,  and  their  patient  caravans 
carried  these  goods  precariously  overland  to  Phoenicia  and  Babylon.  In 
the  interior  of  their  broad  peninsula  they  built  cities,  palaces  and  temples, 
but  they  did  not  encourage  foreigners  to  come  and  see  them.  For  thou- 
sands of  years  they  have  lived  their  own  life,  kept  their  own  customs, 
kept  their  own  counsel;  they  are  the  same  today  as  in  the  time  of  Cheops 
and  Gudea;  they  have  seen  a  hundred  kingdoms  rise  and  fall  about  them; 
and  their  soil  is  still  jealously  theirs,  guarded  from  profane  feet  and  alien 

Who,  now,  were  those  Phoenicians  who  have  so  often  been  spoken 
of  in  these  pages,  whose  ships  sailed  every  sea,  whose  merchants  bar- 
gained in  every  port?  The  historian  is  abashed  before  any  question  of 
origins:  he  must  confess  that  he  knows  next  to  nothing  about  either  the 
early  or  the  late  history  of  this  ubiquitous,  yet  elusive,  people."  We  do 
not  know  whence  they  came,  nor  when;  we  are  not  certain  that  they 


were  Semites;*  and  as  to  the  date  of  their  arrival  on  the  Mediterranean 
coast,  we  cannot  contradict  the  statement  of  the  scholars  of  Tyre,  who 
told  Herodotus  that  their  ancestors  had  come  from  the  Persian  Gulf,  and 
had  founded  the  city  in  what  we  should  call  the  twenty-eighth  century 
before  Christ."  Even  their  name  is  problematical:  the  phoinix  from  which 
the  Greeks  coined  it  may  mean  the  red  dye  that  Tyrian  merchants  sold, 
or  a  palm-tree  that  flourishes  along  the  Phoenician  coast.  That  coast,  a 
narrow  strip  a  hundred  miles  long  and  only  ten  miles  wide,  between  Syria 
and  the  sea,  was  almost  all  of  Phoenicia;  the  people  never  thought  it  worth 
while  to  settle  in  the  Lebanon  hills  behind  them,  or  to  bring  these  ranges 
under  their  rule;  they  were  content  that  this  beneficent  barrier  should 
protect  them  from  the  more  warlike  nations  whose  goods  they  carried 
out  into  all  the  lanes  of  the  sea. 

Those  mountains  compelled  them  to  live  on  the  water.  From  the  Sixth 
Egyptian  Dynasty  onward  they  were  the  busiest  merchants  of  the  ancient 
world;  and  when  they  liberated  themselves  from  Egypt  (ca.  1200  B.C.) 
they  became  masters  of  the  Mediterranean.  They  themselves  manufac- 
tured various  forms  and  objects  of  glass  and  metal;  they  made  enameled 
vases,  weapons,  ornaments  and  jewelry;  they  had  a  monopoly  of  the  purple 
dye  which  they  extracted  from  the  molluscs  abounding  along  their 
shores;18  and  the  women  of  Tyre  were  famous  for  the  gorgeous  colors 
with  which  they  stained  the  products  of  their  deft  needlework.  These, 
and  the  exportable  surplus  of  India  and  the  Near  East— cereals,  wines, 
textiles  and  precious  stones— they  shipped  to  every  city  of  the  Mediter- 
ranean far  and  near,  bringing  back,  in  return,  lead,  gold  and  iron  from 
the  south  shores  of  the  Black  Sea,  copper,  cypress  and  corn  from  Cyprus, t 
ivory  from  Africa,  silver  from  Spain,  tin  from  Britain,  and  slaves  from 
everywhere.  They  were  shrewd  traders;  they  persuaded  the  natives  of 
Spain  to  give  them,  in  exchange  for  a  cargo  of  oil,  so  great  a  quantity  of 
silver  that  the  holds  of  their  ships  could  not  contain  it— whereupon  the 
subtle  Semites  replaced  the  iron  or  stones  in  their  anchors  with  silver,  and 
sailed  prosperously  away.10  Not  satisfied  with  this,  they  enslaved  the  na- 
tives, and  made  them  work  for  long  hours  in  the  mines  for  a  subsistence 
wage.J  Like  all  early  voyagers,  and  some  old  languages,  they  made  scant 

*  Autran  has  argued  that  they  were  a  branch  of  the  Cretan  civilization." 
t  Copper  and  cypress  took  their  names  from  Cyprus. 

$  Cf.  Gibbon:  "Spain,  by  a  very  singular  fatality,  was  the  Peru  and  Mexico  of  the  old 
world.  The  discovery  of  the  rich  western  continent  by  the  Phoenicians,  and  the  oppres- 

CHAP.Xl)  A    MOTLEY    OF    NATIONS  293 

distinction  between  trade  and  treachery,  commerce  and  robbery;  they 
stole  from  the  weak,  cheated  the  stupid,  and  were  honest  with  the  rest. 
Sometimes  they  captured  ships  on  the  high  seas,  and  confiscated  their 
cargoes  and  their  crews;  sometimes  they  lured  curious  natives  into  visiting 
the  Phoenician  vessels,  and  then  sailed  off  with  them  to  sell  them  as 
slaves.21  They  had  much  to  do  with  giving  the  trading  Semites  of  antiquity 
an  evil  reputation,  especially  with  the  early  Greeks,  who  did  the  same 

Their  low  and  narrow  galleys,  some  seventy  feet  long,  set  a  new  style 
of  design  by  abandoning  the  inward-curving  bow  of  the  Egyptian  vessel, 
and  turning  it  outward  into  a  sharp  point  for  cleaving  wind  or  water, 
or  the  ships  of  the  enemy.  One  large  rectangular  sail,  hoisted  on  a  mast 
fixed  in  the  keel,  helped  the  galley-slaves  who  provided  most  of  the 
motive-power  with  their  double  bank  of  oars.  On  a  deck  above  the 
rowers,  soldiers  stood  on  guard,  ready  for  trade  or  war.  These  frail 
ships,  having  no  compasses  and  drawing  hardly  five  feet  of  water, 
kept  cautiously  near  the  shore,  and  for  a  long  time  dared  not  move  during 
the  night.  Gradually  the  art  of  navigation  developed  to  the  point  where 
the  Phoenician  pilots,  guiding  themselves  by  the  North  Star  (or  the 
Phoenician  Star,  as  the  Greeks  called  it),  adventured  into  the  oceans, 
and  at  last  circumnavigated  Africa,  sailing  down  the  cast  coast  first,  and 
"discovering"  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope  some  two  thousand  years  before 
Vasco  da  Gama.  "When  autumn  came,"  says  Herodotus,  "they  went 
ashore,  sowed  the  land,  and  waited  for  harvest;  then,  having  reaped  the 
corn,  they  put  to  sea  again.  When  two  years  had  thus  passed,  in  the 
third,  having  doubled  the  Pillars  of  Hercules  (Gibraltar),  they  arrived 
in  Egypt."23  What  an  adventure! 

At  strategic  points  along  the  Mediterranean  they  established  garrisons 
that  grew  in  time  into  populous  colonies  or  cities:  at  Cadiz,  Carthage 
and  Marseilles,  in  Malta,  Sicily,  Sardinia  and  Corsica,  even  in  distant 
England.  They  occupied  Cyprus,  Melos  and  Rhodes.84  They  took  the 
arts  and  sciences  of  Egypt,  Crete  and  the  Near  East  and  spread  them 
in  Greece,  Africa,  Italy  and  Spain.  They  bound  together  the  East  and 

sion  of  the  simple  natives,  who  were  compelled  to  labor  in  their  own  mines  for  the 
benefit  of  the  strangers,  form  an  exact  type  of  the  more  recent  history  of  Spanish 

*  The  Greeks,  who  for  half  a  millennium  were  raiders  and  pirates,  gave  the  name 
"Phoenician"  to  anyone  addicted  to  sharp  practices." 


the  West  in  a  commercial  and  cultural  web,  and  began  to  redeem  Europe 
from  barbarism. 

Nourished  by  this  trade,  and  skilfully  governed  by  mercantile  aristocra- 
cies too  clever  in  diplomacy  and  finance  to  waste  their  fortunes  in  war,  the 
cities  of  Phoenicia  rose  to  a  place  among  the  richest  and  most  powerful  in 
the  world.  Byblos  thought  itself  the  oldest  of  all  cities;  the  god  El  had 
founded  it  at  the  beginning  of  time,  and  to  the  end  of  its  history  it  re- 
mained the  religious  capital  of  Phoenicia.  Because  papyrus  was  one  of  the 
principal  articles  in  its  trade,  the  Greeks  took  the  name  of  the  city  as  their 
word  for  book—biblos— and  from  their  word  for  books  named  our  Bible— ta 

Some  fifty  miles  to  the  south,  also  on  the  coast,  lay  Sidon;  originally  a 
fortress,  it  grew  rapidly  into  a  village,  a  town,  a  prosperous  city;  it  con- 
tributed the  best  ships  to  Xerxes'  fleet;  and  when  later  the  Persians  be- 
sieged and  captured  it,  its  proud  leaders  deliberately  burned  it  to  the 
ground,  forty  thousand  inhabitants  perishing  in  the  conflagration."  It  was 
already  rebuilt  and  flourishing  when  Alexander  came,  and  some  of  its  en- 
terprising merchants  followed  his  army  to  India  "for  trafficking.""8 

Greatest  of  the  Phoenician  cities  was  Tyre— i.e.,  the  rock— built  upon  an 
island  several  miles  off  the  coast.  It,  too,  began  as  a  fortress;  but  its  splen- 
did harbor  and  its  security  from  attack  soon  made  it  the  metropolis  of 
Phoenicia,  a  cosmopolitan  bedlam  of  merchants  and  slaves  from  the  whole 
Mediterranean  world.  Already  in  the  ninth  century  B.C.,  Tyre  had  achieved 
affluence  under  King  Hiram,  friend  of  King  Solomon;  and  by  the  time  of 
Zechariah  (ca.  520  B.C.),  she  had  "heaped  up  silver  as  the  dust,  and  fine  gold 
as  the  mire  of  the  streets.""  "The  houses  here,"  said  Strabo,  "have  many 
stories,  even  more  than  the  houses  at  Rome."*  Its  wealth  and  courage  kept 
it  independent  until  Alexander  came.  The  young  god  saw  in  it  a  challenge 
to  his  omnipotence,  and  reduced  it  by  building  a  causeway  that  turned  the 
island  into  a  peninsula.  The  success  of  Alexandria  completed  the  ruin  of 

Like  every  nation  that  feels  the  complexity  of  cosmic  currents  and  the 
variety  of  human  needs,  Phoenicia  had  many  gods.  Each  city  had  its  Baal 
(i.e.,  Lord)  or  city-god,  who  was  conceived  as  ancestor  of  the  kings,  and 
source  of  the  soil's  fertility;  the  corn,  the  wine,  the  figs  and  the  flax  were 
all  the  work  of  the  holy  Baal.  The  Baal  of  Tyre  was  called  Melkarth;  like 
Hercules,  with  whom  the  Greeks  identified  him,  he  was  a  god  of  strength, 
and  accomplished  feats  worthy  of  a  Miinchausen.  Astarte  was  the  Greek 
name  of  the  Phoenician  Ishtar;  she  had  the  distinction  of  being  worshiped  in 


some  places  as  the  goddess  of  a  cold  Artemisian  chastity,  and  in  others  as 
the  amorous  and  wanton  deity  of  physical  love,  in  which  form  she  was 
identified  by  the  Greeks  with  Aphrodite.  As  Ishtar-Mylitta  received  in  sacri- 
fice the  virginity  of  her  girl-devotees  at  Babylon,  so  the  women  who  hon- 
ored Astarte  at  Byblos  had  to  give  up  their  long  tresses  to  her,  or  surrender 
themselves  to  the  first  stranger  who  solicited  their  love  in  the  precincts  of 
the  temple.  And  as  Ishtar  had  loved  Tammuz,  so  Astarte  had  loved  Adoni 
(i.e.,  Lord),  whose  death  on  the  tusks  of  a  boar  was  annually  mourned  at 
Byblos  and  Paphos  (in  Cyprus)  with  wailing  and  beating  of  the  breast. 
Luckily  Adoni  rose  from  the  dead  as  often  as  he  died,  and  ascended  to  heav- 
en in  the  presence  of  his  worshipers."  Finally  there  was  Moloch  (i.e.,  King), 
the  terrible  god  to  whom  the  Phoenicians  offered  living  children  as  burnt 
sacrifices;  at  Carthage,  during  a  siege  of  the  city  (307  B.C.),  two  hundred 
boys  of  die  best  families  were  burned  to  death  on  the  altar  of  this  fiery 

Nevertheless  the  Phoenicians  deserve  some  niche  in  the  hall  of  civilized 
nations,  for  it  was  probably  their  merchants  who  taught  the  Egyptian 
alphabet  to  the  nations  of  antiquity.  Not  the  ecstasies  of  literature  but 
the  needs  of  commerce  brought  unity  to  the  peoples  of  the  Mediterranean; 
nothing  could  better  illustrate  a  certain  generative  relation  between 
commerce  and  culture.  We  do  not  know  that  the  Phoenicians  introduced 
this  alphabet  into  Greece,  though  Greek  tradition  unanimously  affirms 
it;81  it  is  possible  that  Crete  gave  the  alphabet  to  both  the  Phoenicians  and 
the  Greeks.88  But  it  is  more  probable  that  the  Phoenicians  took  letters 
where  they  took  papyrus.  About  noo  B.C.  we  find  them  importing 
papyrus  from  Egypt;38  for  a  nation  that  kept  and  carried  many  accounts 
it  was  an  inestimable  convenience  compared  with  the  heavy  clay  tablets 
of  Mesopotamia;  and  the  Egyptian  alphabet  was  likewise  an  immense 
improvement  upon  the  clumsy  syllabaries  of  the  Near  East.  About  960 
B.C.  King  Hiram  of  Tyre  dedicated  to  one  of  his  gods  a  bronze  cup  en- 
graved with  an  alphabetic  inscription;84  and  about  840  B.C.  King  Mesha 
of  Moab  announced  his  glory  (on  a  stone  now  in  the  Louvre)  in  a 
Semitic  dialect  written  from  right  to  left  in  letters  corresponding  to 
those  of  the  Phoenician  alphabet.  The  Greeks  reversed  the  facing  of 
some  of  the  letters,  because  they  wrote  from  left  to  right;  but  essentially 
their  alphabet  was  that  which  the  Phoenicians  had  taught  them,  and 
which  they  were  in  turn  to  teach  to  Europe.  These  strange  symbols 
are  the  most  precious  portion  of  our  cultural  heritage. 


The  oldest  examples  of  alphabetic  writing  known  to  us,  however,  appear 
not  in  Phoenicia  but  in  Sinai.  At  Serabit-el-khadim,  a  little  hamlet  covering 
a  site  where  anciently  the  Egyptians  mined  turquoise,  Sir  William  Flinders 
Petrie  found  inscriptions  in  a  strange  language,  dating  back  to  an  uncertain 
age,  perhaps  as  early  as  2500  B.C.  Though  these  inscriptions  have  never  been 
deciphered,  it  is  apparent  that  they  were  written  not  in  hieroglyphics,  nor 
in  syllabic  cuneiform,  but  with  an  alphabet.30  At  Zapouna,  in  southern 
Syria,  French  archeologists  discovered  an  entire  library  of  clay  tablets- 
some  in  hieroglyphic,  some  in  a  Semitic  alphabetic  script.  As  Zapouna  seems 
to  have  been  permanently  destroyed  about  1200  B.C.,  these  tablets  go  back 
presumably  to  the  thirteenth  century  B.C.,80  and  suggest  to  us  again  how 
old  civilization  was  in  those  centuries  to  which  our  ignorance  ascribes  its 

Syria  lay  behind  Phoenicia,  in  the  very  lap  of  the  Lebanon  hills,  gath- 
ering its  tribes  together  loosely  under  the  rule  of  that  capital  which  still 
boasts  that  it  is  the  oldest  city  of  all,  and  still  harbors  Syrians  hungry  for 
liberty.  For  a  time  the  kings  of  Damascus  dominated  a  dozen  petty 
nations  about  them,  and  successfully  resisted  the  efforts  of  Assyria  to  make 
Syria  one  of  her  vassal  states.  The  inhabitants  of  the  city  were  Semitic 
merchants,  who  managed  to  garner  wealth  out  of  the  caravan  trade  that 
passed  through  Syria's  mountains  and  plains.  Artisans  and  slaves  worked 
for  them,  none  too  happily.  We  hear  of  masons  organizing  great  unions, 
and  inscriptions  tell  of  a  strike  of  bakers  in  Magnesia;  across  the  centuries 
we  sense  the  strife  and  busyness  of  an  ancient  Syrian  town.37  These 
artisans  were  skilful  in  shaping  graceful  pottery,  in  carving  ivory  and 
wood,  in  polishing  gems,  and  in  weaving  stuffs  of  gay  colors  for  the 
adornment  of  their  women." 

Fashions,  manners  and  morals  in  Damascus  were  very  much  as  at 
Babylon,  which  was  the  Paris  and  arbiter  elegantiarum  of  the  ancient 
East.  Religious  prostitution  flourished,  for  in  Syria,  as  throughout  western 
Asia,  the  fertility  of  the  soil  was  symbolized  in  a  Great  Mother,  or 
Goddess,  whose  sexual  commerce  with  her  lover  gave  the  hint  to  all 
the  reproductive  processes  and  energies  of  nature;  and  the  sacrifice  of 
virginity  at  the  temples  was  not  only  an  offering  to  Astarte,  but  a  par- 
ticipation with  her  in  that  annual  self-abandonment  which,  it  was  hoped, 
would  offer  an  irresistible  suggestion  to  the  earth,  and  insure  the  increase 
of  plants,  animals  and  men.88  About  the  time  of  the  vernal  equinox  the 
festival  of  the  Syrian  Astarte,  like  that  of  Cybele  in  Phrygia,  was  cele- 

CHAP.  Xl)  A    MOTLEY    OF    NATIONS  297 

brated  at  Hierapolis  with  a  fervor  bordering  upon  madness.  The  noise 
of  flutes  and  drums  mingled  with  the  wailing  of  the  women  for  Astarte's 
dead  lord,  Adoni;  eunuch  priests  danced  wildly,  and  slashed  themselves 
with  knives;  at  last  many  men,  who  had  come  merely  as  spectators,  were 
overcome  with  the  excitement,  threw  off  their  clothing,  and  emasculated 
themselves  in  pledge  of  lifelong  service  to  the  goddess.  Then,  in  the  dark 
of  the  night,  the  priests  brought  a  mystic  illumination  to  the  scene,  opened 
the  tomb  of  the  young  god,  and  announced  triumphantly  that  Adoni, 
the  Lord,  had  risen  from  the  dead.  Touching  the  lips  of  the  worshipers 
with  balm,  the  priests  whispered  to  them  the  promise  that  they,  too, 
would  some  day  rise  from  the  grave.40 

The  other  gods  of  Syria  were  not  less  bloodthirsty  than  Astarte.  It  is 
true  that  the  priests  recognized  a  general  divinity,  embracing  all  the  gods, 
and  called  El  or  Ilu,  like  the  Elohim  of  the  Jews;  but  this  calm  abstraction 
was  hardly  noticed  by  the  people  who  gave  their  worship  to  the  Baal. 
Usually  they  identified  this  city-god  with  the  sun,  as  they  identified 
Astarte  with  the  moon;  and  on  occasions  of  great  moment  they  offered 
him  their  own  children  in  sacrifice,  after  the  manner  of  the  Phoenicians; 
the  parents  came  to  the  ceremony  dressed  as  for  a  festival,  and  the  cries 
of  their  children  burning  in  the  lap  of  the  god  were  drowned  by  the 
blaring  of  trumpets  and  the  piping  of  flutes.  Normally,  however,  a  milder 
sacrifice  sufficed;  the  priests  slashed  themselves  until  the  altar  was  covered 
with  their  blood;  or  the  child's  foreskin  was  offered  as  a  commutation 
for  his  life;  or  the  priests  condescended  to  accept  a  sum  of  money  to  be 
presented  to  the  god  in  place  of  the  prepuce.  In  some  way  the  god  had 
to  be  appeased  and  satisfied;  for  his  worshipers  had  made  him  in  the 
image  and  dream  of  themselves,  and  he  had  no  great  regard  for  human 
life,  or  womanly  tears.41 

Similar  customs,  varying  only  in  name  and  detail,  were  practised  by 
the  Semitic  tribes  south  of  Syria,  who  filled  the  land  with  their  confusion 
of  tongues.  It  was  forbidden  the  Jews  to  "make  their  children  pass 
through  the  fire,"  but  occasionally  they  did  it  none  the  less.48  Abraham 
about  to  sacrifice  Isaac,  and  Agamemnon  sacrificing  Iphigenia,  were  but 
resorting  to  an  ancient  rite  in  attempting  to  propitiate  the  gods  with 
human  blood.  Mesha,  King  of  Moab,  sacrificed  his  eldest  son  by  fire  as 
a  means  of  raising  a  siege;  his  prayer  having  been  answered,  and  the 
sacrifice  of  his  son  having  been  accepted,  he  slaughtered  seven  thousand 
Israelites  in  gratitude.43  Throughout  this  region,  from  the  Sumerian  days 


when  the  Amorites  roamed  the  plains  of  Amurru  (ca.  -2800  B.C.)  to  the 
time  when  the  Jews  fell  with  divine  wrath  upon  the  Canaanites,  and 
Sargon  of  Assyria  captured  Samaria,  and  Nebuchadrezzar  captured  Jeru- 
salem (597  B.C.),  the  valley  of  the  Jordan  was  drenched  periodically 
with  fratricidal  blood,  and  many  Lords  of  Hosts  rejoiced.  These  Moabites, 
Canaanites,  Amorites,  Edomites,  Philistines  and  Aramaeans  hardly  enter 
into  the  cultural  record  of  mankind.  It  is  true  that  the  fertile  Aramaeans, 
spreading  everywhere,  made  their  language  the  lingua  franca  of  the  Near 
East,  and  that  the  alphabetic  script  which  they  had  learned  either  from 
the  Egyptians  or  the  Phoenicians  replaced  the  cuneiform  and  syllabaries 
of  Mesopotamia,  first  as  a  mercantile,  then  as  a  literary,  medium,  and 
became  at  last  the  tongue  of  Christ  and  the  alphabet  of  the  Arabs  today.44 
But  time  preserves  their  names  not  so  much  because  of  their  own  accom- 
plishments as  because  they  played  some  pan  on  the  tragic  stage  of  Pales- 
tine. We  must  study,  in  greater  detail  than  their  neighbors,  these  numer- 
ically and  geographically  insignificant  Jews,  who  gave  to  the  world  one 
of  its  greatest  literatures,  two  of  its  most  influential  religions,  and  so  many 
of  its  prof  oundest  men. 




Palestine  —  Climate  —  Prehistory  —  Abraham's  people  —  The 
Jews  in  Egypt  —  The  Exodus  —  The  conquest  of  Canaan 

A  BUCKLE  or  a  Montesquieu,  eager  to  interpret  history  through 
geography,  might  have  taken  a  handsome  leaf  out  of  Palestine. 
One  hundred  and  fifty  miles  from  Dan  on  the  north  to  Beersheba  on  the 
south,  twenty-five  to  eighty  miles  from  the  Philistines  on  the  west  to 
the  Syrians,  Aramaeans,  Ammonites,  Moabites  and  Edomites  on  the  east- 
one  would  not  expect  so  tiny  a  territory  to  play  a  major  role  in  history, 
or  to  leave  behind  it  an  influence  greater  than  that  of  Babylonia,  Assyria 
or  Persia,  perhaps  greater  even  than  that  of  Egypt  or  Greece.  But  it 
was  the  fortune  and  misfortune  of  Palestine  that  it  lay  midway  between 
the  capitals  of  the  Nile  and  those  of  the  Tigris  and  Euphrates.  This  cir- 
cumstance brought  trade  to  Judea,  and  it  brought  war;  time  and  again 
the  harassed  Hebrews  were  compelled  to  take  sides  in  the  struggle  of  the 
empires,  to  pay  tribute  or  be  overrun.  Behind  the  Bible,  behind  the 
plaintive  cries  of  the  psalmists  and  the  prophets  for  help  from  the  sky, 
lay  this  imperiled  place  of  the  Jews  between  the  upper  and  nether  mill- 
stones of  Mesopotamia  and  Egypt. 

The  climatic  history  of  the  land  tells  us  again  how  precarious  a  thing 
civilization  is,  and  how  its  great  enemies— barbarism  and  desiccation- 
are  always  waiting  to  destroy  it.  Once  Palestine  was  "a  land  flowing 
with  milk  and  honey,"  as  many  a  passage  in  the  Pentateuch  describes  it.1 
Josephus,  in  the  first  century  after  Christ,  still  speaks  of  it  as  "moist 
enough  for  agriculture,  and  very  beautiful.  They  have  abundance  of 
trees,  and  are  full  of  autumn  fruits  both  wild  and  cultivated.  .  .  .  They 
are  not  naturally  watered  by  many  rivers,  but  derive  their  chief  moisture 
from  rain,  of  which  they  have  no  want.""  In  ancient  days  the  spring  rains 
that  fed  the  land  were  stored  in  cisterns  or  brought  back  to  the  surface 
by  a  multitude  of  wells,  and  distributed  over  the  country  by  a  network 



of  canals;  this  was  the  physical  basis  of  Jewish  civilization.  The  soil,  so 
nourished,  produced  barley,  wheat  and  corn,  the  vine  throve  on  it,  and 
trees  bore  olives,  figs,  dates  or  other  fruits  on  every  slope.  When  war 
came  and  devastated  these  artifically  fertile  fields,  or  when  some  con- 
queror exiled  to  distant  regions  the  families  that  had  cared  for  them, 
the  desert  crept  in  eagerly,  and  in  a  few  years  undid  the  work  of  genera- 
tions. We  cannot  judge  the  fruitfulness  of  ancient  Palestine  from  the 
barren  wastes  and  timid  oases  that  confronted  the  brave  Jews  who  in 
our  own  time  returned  to  their  old  home  after  eighteen  centuries  of 
exile,  dispersion  and  suffering. 

History  is  older  in  Palestine  than  Bishop  Ussher  supposed.  Neanderthal 
remains  have  been  unearthed  near  the  Sea  of  Galilee,  and  five  Neander- 
thal skeletons  were  recently  discovered  in  a  cave  near  Haifa;  it  appears 
likely  that  the  Mousterian  culture  which  flourished  in  Europe  about  40,000 
B.C.  extended  to  Palestine.  At  Jericho  neolithic  floors  and  hearths  have  been 
exhumed  that  carry  back  the  history  of  the  region  down  to  a  Middle 
Bronze  Age  (2000-1600  B.C.),  in  which  the  towns  of  Palestine  and  Syria 
had  accumulated  such  wealth  as  to  invite  conquest  by  Egypt.  In  the  fif- 
teenth century  before  Christ  Jericho  was  a  well-walled  city,  ruled  by  kings 
acknowledging  the  suzerainty  of  Egypt;  the  tombs  of  these  kings,  ex- 
cavated by  the  Garstang  Expedition,  contained  hundreds  of  vases,  funerary 
offerings,  and  other  objects  indicating  a  settled  life  at  Jericho  in  the  time 
of  the  Hyksos  domination,  and  a  fairly  developed  civilization  in  the  days 
of  Hatshcpsut  and  Thutmose  III.8  It  becomes  apparent  that  the  different 
dates  at  which  we  begin  the  history  of  divers  peoples  are  merely  the  marks 
of  our  ignorance.  The  Tell-el-Amarna  letters  carry  on  the  general  picture 
of  Palestinian  and  Syrian  life  almost  to  the  entrance  of  the  Jews  into 
the  valley  of  the  Nile.  It  is  probable,  though  not. certain,  that  the  "Habiru" 
spoken  of  in  this  correspondence  were  Hebrews.*4 

The  Jews  believed  that  the  people  of  Abraham  had  come  from  Ur  in 
Sumeria,B  and  had  settled  in  Palestine  (ca.  2200  B.C.)  a  thousand  years 

*  The  discoveries  here  summarized  have  restored  considerable  credit  to  those  chapters 
of  Genesis  that  record  the  early  traditions  of  the  Jews.  In  its  outlines,  and  barring 
supernatural  incidents,  the  story  of  the  Jews  as  unfolded  in  the  Old  Testament  has  stood 
the  test  of  criticism  and  archeology;  every  year  adds  corroboration  from  documents, 
monuments,  or  excavations.  E.g.,  potsherds  unearthed  at  Tel  Ad-Duweir  in  1935  bore 
Hebrew  inscriptions  confirming  pan  of  the  narrative  of  the  Books  of  Kings.4*  We  must 
accept  the  Biblical  account  provisionally  until  it  is  disproved.  Cf.  Pctric,  Egypt  and 
Israel,  London,  1925,  p.  108. 

CHAP.  Xn)"  JUDEA  301 

or  more  before  Moses;  and  that  the  conquest  of  the  Canaanites  was 
merely  a  capture  by  the  Hebrews  of  the  land  promised  them  by  their 
God.  The  Amraphael  mentioned  in  Genesis  (xiv,  i )  as  "King  of  Shinar 
in  those  days"  was  probably  Amarpal,  father  of  Hammurabi,  and  his 
predecessor  on  the  throne  of  Babylon.0  There  are  no  direct  references 
in  contemporary  sources  to  either  the  Exodus  or  the  conquest  of  Canaan;7 
and  the  only  indirect  reference  is  the  stele  erected  by  Pharaoh  Merneptah 
(ca.  1225  B.C.),  part  of  which  reads  as  follows: 

The  kings  arc  overthrown,  saying  "Salam!"  .  .  . 

Wasted  is  Tehenu, 

The  Hittite  land  is  pacified, 

Plundered  is  Canaan,  with  every  evil,  ... 

Israel  is  desolated,  her  seed  is  not; 

Palestine  has  become  a  widow  for  Egypt, 

All  lands  are  united,  they  are  pacified; 

Every  one  that  is  turbulent  is  bound  by  King  Merneptah.* 

This  does  not  prove  that  Merneptah  was  the  Pharaoh  of  the  Exodus; 
it  proves  little  except  that  Egyptian  armies  had  again  ravaged  Palestine. 
We  cannot  tell  when  the  Jews  entered  Egypt,  nor  whether  they  came 
to  it  as  freemen  or  as  slaves.*  We  may  take  it  as  likely  that  the  immi- 
grants were  at  first  a  modest  number,11  and  that  the  many  thousands  of 
Jews  in  Egypt  in  Moses'  time  were  the  consequence  of  a  high  birth  rate; 
as  in  all  periods,  "the  more  they  afflicted  them,  the  more  they  multiplied 
and  grew."13  The  story  of  the  "bondage"  in  Egypt,  of  the  use  of  the 
Jews  as  slaves  in  great  construction  enterprises,  their  rebellion  and  escape— 
or  emigration— to  Asia,  has  many  internal  signs  of  essential  truth,  mingled, 
of  course,  with  supernatural  interpolations  customary  in  all  the  historical 
writing  of  the  ancient  East.  Even  the  story  of  Moses  must  not  be  rejected 
offhand;  it  is  astonishing,  however,  that  no  mention  is  made  of  him  by 
either  Amos  or  Isaiah,  whose  preaching  appears  to  have  preceded  by  a 
century  the  composition  of  the  Pentateuch,  f 

*  Perhaps  they  followed  in  the  track  of  the  Hyksos,  whose  Semitic  rule  in  Egypt  might 
have  offered  them  some  protection.9  Pctrie,  accepting  the  Bible  figure  of  four  hundred 
and  thirty  years  for  the  stay  of  the  Jews  in  Egypt,  dates  their  arrival  about  1650  B.C., 
their  exit  about  1220  B.C.10 

tManetho,  an  Egyptian  historian  of  the  third  century  B.C.,  as  reported  by  Josephus, 
tells  us  that  the  Exodus  was  due  to  the  desire  of  the  Egyptians  to  protect  themselves 
from  a  plague  that  had  broken  out  among  the  destitute  and  enslaved  Jews,  and  that  Moses 
was  an  Egyptian  priest  who  went  as  a  missionary  among  the  Jewish  "lepers,"  and  gave 


When  Moses  led  the  Jews  to  Mt.  Sinai  he  was  merely  following  the 
route  laid  down  by  Egyptian  turquoise-hunting  expeditions  for  a  thousand 
years  before  him.  The  account  of  the  forty  years'  wandering  in  the 
desert,  once  looked  upon  as  incredible,  now  seems  reasonable  enough  in 
a  traditionally  nomadic  people;  and  the  conquest  of  Canaan  was  but  one 
more  instance  of  a  hungry  nomad  horde  falling  upon  a  settled  community. 
The  conquerors  killed  as  many  as  they  could,  and  married  the  rest. 
Slaughter  was  unconfined,  and  (to  follow  the  text)  was  divinely  ordained 
and  enjoyed;19  Gideon,  in  capturing  two  cities,  slew  120,000  men;  only 
in  the  annals  of  the  Assyrians  do  we  meet  again  with  such  hearty  killing, 
or  easy  counting.  Occasionally,  we  are  told,  "the  land  rested  from 
war.""  Moses  had  been  a  patient  statesman,  but  Joshua  was  only  a  plain, 
blunt  warrior;  Moses  had  ruled  bloodlessly  by  inventing  interviews  with 
God,  but  Joshua  ruled  by  the  second  law  of  nature—that  the  superior 
Killer  survives.  In  this  realistic  and  unsentimental  fashion  the  Jews  took 
their  Promised  Land. 


Race  —  Appearance  —  Language  —  Organization  —  Judges  and 

kings— Saul—David— Solomon—His  'wealth— The  Temple— 

Rise  of  the  social  problem  in  Israel 

Of  their  racial  origin  we  can  only  say  vaguely  that  they  were  Semites, 
not  sharply  distinct  or  different  from  the  other  Semites  of  western  Asia; 
it  was  their  history  that  made  them,  not  they  who  made  their  history. 
At  their  very  first  appearance  they  are  already  a  mixture  of  many  stocks- 
only  by  the  most  unbelievable  virtue  could  a  "pure"  race  have  existed 

them  laws  of  cleanliness  modeled  upon  those  of  the  Egyptian  clergy.13  Greek  and  Roman 
writers  repeat  this  explanation  of  the  Exodus;14  but  their  anti-Semitic  inclinations  make 
them  unreliable  guides.  One  verse  of  the  Biblical  account  supports  Ward's  interpretation 
of  the  Exodus  as  a  labor  strike:  "And  the  king  of  Egypt  said  unto  them,  Wherefore  do 
ye,  Moses  and  Aaron,  let  the  people  from  their  works?  Get  you  unto  your  burdens."15 

Moses  is  an  Egyptian  rather  than  a  Jewish  name;  perhaps  it  is  a  shorter  form  of 
Ahmose"  Professor  Garstang,  of  the  Alarston  Expedition  of  the  University  of  Liverpool, 
claims  to  have  discovered,  in  the  royal  tombs  of  Jericho,  evidence  that  Moses  was  rescued 
(precisely  in  1527  B.C.)  by  the  then  Princess,  later  the  great  Queen,  Hatshepsut;  that  he 
was  brought  up  by  her  as  a  court  favorite,  and  fled  from  Egypt  upon  the  accession  of 
her  enemy,  Thutmosc  III."  He  believes  that  the  material  found  in  these  tombs  confirms 
the  story  of  the  fall  of  Jericho  (Joshua,  vi);  he  dates  this  fall  ca.  1400  B.C.,  and  the 
Exodus  ca.  1447  B.C."  As  this  chronology  rests  upon  the  precarious  dating  of  scarabs  and 
pottery,  it  must  be  received  with  respectful  scepticism. 

CHAP.  XIl)  J  U  D  E  A  303 

among  the  thousand  ethnic  cross-currents  of  the  Near  East.  But  the 
Jews  were  the  purest  of  all,  for  they  intermarried  only  very  reluctantly 
with  other  peoples.  Hence  they  have  maintained  their  type  with  astonish- 
ing tenacity;  the  Hebrew  prisoners  on  the  Egyptian  and  Assyrian  reliefs, 
despite  the  prejudices  of  the  artist,  are  recognizably  like  the  Jews  of  our 
own  time:  there,  too,  are  the  long  and  curved  Hittite  nose,*  the  projecting 
cheek-bones,  the  curly  hair  and  beard;  though  one  cannot  see,  under 
the  Egyptian  caricature,  the  scrawny  toughness  of  body,  the  subtlety 
and  obstinacy  of  spirit,  that  have  characterized  the  Semites  from  the 
"stiff -necked"  followers  of  Moses  to  the  inscrutable  Bedouins  and  trades- 
men of  today.  In  the  early  years  of  their  conquest  they  dressed  in  simple 
tunics,  low-crowned  hats  or  turban-like  caps,  and  easy-going  sandals; 
as  wealth  came  they  covered  their  feet  with  leather  shoes,  and  their  tunics 
with  fringed  kaftans.  Their  women,  who  were  among  the  most  beautiful 
of  antiquity,!  painted  their  cheeks  and  their  eyes,  wore  all  the  jewelry 
they  could  get,  and  adopted  to  the  best  of  their  ability  the  newest  styles 
from  Babylon,  Nineveh,  Damascus  or  Tyre.*1 

Hebrew  was  among  the  most  majestically  sonorous  of  all  the  languages 
of  the  earth.  Despite  its  gutturals,  it  was  full  of  masculine  music;  Renan 
described  it  as  "a  quiver  full  of  arrows,  a  trumpet  of  brasses  crashing 
through  the  air.""  It  did  not  differ  much  from  the  speech  of  the  Phoeni- 
cians or  the  Moabites.  The  Jews  used  an  alphabet  akin  to  the  Phoenician;* 
some  scholars  believe  it  to  be  the  oldest  alphabet  known.88*  They  did  not 
bother  to  write  vowels,  leaving  these  for  the  sense  to  fill  in;  even  today 
the  Hebrew  vowels  are  mere  points  adorning  the  consonants, 

The  invaders  never  formed  a  united  nation,  but  remained  for  a  long 
time  as  twelve  more  or  less  independent  tribes,  organized  and  ruled  on 
the  principles  not  of  the  state  but  of  the  patriarchal  family.  The  oldest 
head  of  each  family  group  participated  in  a  council  of  elders  which  was 
the  last  court  of  law  and  justice  in  the  tribe,  and  which  cooperated  with 
the  leaders  of  other  tribes  only  under  the  compulsion  of  dire  emergency. 
The  family  was  the  most  convenient  economic  unit  in  tilling  the  fields 
and  tending  the  flocks;  this  was  the  source  of  its  strength,  its  authority, 
and  its  political  power.  A  measure  of  family  communism  softened  the 
rigors  of  paternal  d